Federal Agents Search Union Leader John Dougherty's South Philadelphia House, City Councilman's Offices

Federal agents conducted raids Friday across Philadelphia and New Jersey, pulling truckloads of documents and computers from locations that included two rowhouses, a pub, a union hall and the political offices of a City Councilman.

A common link for all the search sites became clear immediately: the city's most influential labor union, IBEW Local 98, and its powerful leader known by the moniker Johnny Doc.

The FBI confirmed by mid-morning that the searches and subsequent seizures of enough boxes to fill an actual rental truck were part of an "ongoing investigation," apparently into the Philadelphia local for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. 

John Dougherty, who played a major role in getting Mayor Jim Kenney elected last year and at the same time helped his brother Kevin win a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, paced outside his home as agents searched inside.

Dougherty declined to discuss the purpose of the search, but told NBC10 he'd been under scrutiny his whole life, perhaps "because I keep winning."

It is the second time in 10 years that federal agents have raided the well-kept rowhouse on East Moyamensing Avenue in South Philadelphia.

His attorney, Hank Hockeimer of Ballard Spahr, was with Dougherty outside his house all morning and the two retreated inside once agents left.

"Nothing has changed inside the house since the last time 10 years ago," Hockeimer said.

Agents left there with several boxes of evidence and a computer after about four hours, then rolled a boxtruck up to the IBEW headquarters and union hall on Spring Garden Street and began loading dozens and dozens of boxes.

The FBI said federal agents searched those locations and Dougherty's pub in the 1800 block of South Second Street called Doc's Union Pub. In all, nine properties were searched throughout the morning and afternoon in connection with the investigation.

Those properties included Councilman Bobby Henon's offices at City Hall and in Northeast Philadelphia. Henon is a former IBEW Local 98 electrician who rose to become the union's political director  before being elected to Council in 2011 with the support of Dougherty. This year, he took over as Council majority leader.

Across the river in New Jersey, federal agents raided MJK Electrical in Berlin and the Mt. Laurel home of Brian Burrows, president of Local 98. Pine Hill Police Chief Chris Winters said his officers assisted the FBI in serving the search warrant looking for tax records.

Several firearms and ammunition were seized during the search at MJK Electical unrelated to the FBI search. Winters said the person connected to the weapons was taken into custody. It's not clear why.

Frank Keel, who Dougherty edged out of his position this summer during a union reorganization, was back on the job as IBEW spokesman Friday. Keel said he didn't know anything about the investigation except for media reports of "financial improprieties" involving IBEW, and said the union is regularly audited.

John 'Johnny Doc' Dougherty's House, IBEW Raided by FBI

Dougherty last September became head of the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, a few months after his chosen candidate for mayor, Kenney, won the heated Democratic primary. Kenney easily won the general election in November. The two men grew up together in South Philadelphia and were close until a political estrangement last decade. 

Still, when the mayor's race began shaping up last year into a battle between the longtime Councilman Kenney and state Sen. Anthony Williams, of West Philadelphia, Dougherty threw his union's considerable political clout -- and its vast resources -- behind the former South Philly friend.

Local 98's political action committee spent roughly $450,000 during the mayoral campaign last year.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Friday he wouldn’t comment on early morning FBI raids at the home of union boss and campaign supporter Johnny “Johnny Doc” Dougherty and IBEW Local 98 headquarters.

"I know basically what you know," Kenney said when questioned about the raids at an unrelated midday news event. He quickly walked to a waiting vehicle and left without answering questions.

Kenney's spokeswoman Lauren Hitt confirmed no one in the Kenney administration has been approached by the FBI in relation to the investigation.

At the same news event, Councilmen Mark Squilla and Curtis Jones said they knew nothing about the investigation into their Council colleague, Henon.

Jones, the previous majority leader who lost the position to Henon after an internal power struggle on Council last year, brushed aside a question about Henon's reputation after the raids.

Asked if he has faith in Henon to be a leader on Council, Jones said, "I have full faith in me, and I have full faith in my institution, City Council. Totally. And I think the presumption of innocence always has to be there. I take no pleasure at all in anyone else's troubles."

Reporters Rosemary Connors, George Spencer, Mitch Blacher, Matt DeLucia and Drew Smith contributed to this story.

Contact Us