Philadelphia Streets Dept. Chief Says He Was Threatened by Union Boss Dougherty

Carlton Williams, the current Philadelphia Streets commissioner, testified union boss Johnny "Doc" Dougherty threatened to have him fired in 2011 when Williams didn't respond well to an alleged demand from Dougherty related to construction work.

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What to Know

  • Johnny "Doc" Dougherty has held a tight grip on construction jobs in the Philadelphia region during more than two decades at the helm of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which has nearly 5,000 members. He also leads the city’s Buildings Trades Council, an umbrella group of local unions with 70,000 members.
  • Councilman Bobby Henon, a Democrat and former union electrician, has remained on the City Council since the 2019 indictment.
  • Both he and Dougherty face 13 counts, including conspiracy and honest services fraud, and a maximum 20-year sentence on the most serious charge.

Philadelphia Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams, who previously ran the city's Licenses and Inspections Department, testified Tuesday at the public corruption trial of electricians' union boss Johnny "Doc" Dougherty and City Councilman Bobby Henon that the two often pestered Williams about construction sites.

Williams testified that at one meeting in 2014 a frustrated Dougherty told the former L&I chief "he could have me replaced." The city official took the stand Tuesday in federal court during the second week of the highest profile federal corruption trial in Philadelphia in a decade.

Federal prosecutors allege that Dougherty, the most powerful labor leader in Philadelphia as longtime business manager of IBEW Local 98, kept Henon on the union payroll in a no-show, $70,000-a-year job so he would do his bidding at City Hall.

The sweeping 2019 indictment, years in the making, accused Dougherty and Henon of engaging in an illegal conspiracy to keep a tight grip on construction jobs in the Philadelphia region.

A jury was selected last Monday, and opening arguments followed before witnesses began taking the stand this week.

Dougherty, 61, is one of the state’s most influential political donors, having steered more than $30 million over the years to mostly Democratic candidates. His brother sits on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The trial evidence will include wiretaps of his phone calls to Henon, Mayor Jim Kenney and others over a 16-month period, Witzleben said.

He will later face a second trial for parts of the indictment that allege he and others embezzled more than $600,000 from Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which he leads, and a potential third trial on other charges.

But first, prosecutors hope to prove that Dougherty used Henon to press Comcast Corp. to steer $2 million worth of electrical work to a friend during cable contract talks with the city; to shut down the non-union installation of MRI machines at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and to investigate a towing company that seized Dougherty’s car.

Johnny "Doc" Dougherty, the most powerful labor leader in Philadelphia, kept a city councilman on the union payroll in a no-show, $70,000-a-year job so he would do his bidding at City Hall, federal prosecutors said in opening arguments Tuesday as a long-awaited corruption trial began. NBC10's Lauren Mayk has the details.

Defense lawyer Hank Hockeimer called Dougherty a “big brother” to the younger Henon, who is a former union electrician, and defended his client's “bombastic” style. And he questioned the alleged bribes at the heart of the case.

“Two years of salary, and Eagles tickets, those are the ‘bribes,’” Hockeimer said, making air quotes around the word.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks. Both Dougherty and Henon have pleaded not guilty.

Williams told NBC10 as he left the federal courthouse on Market Street in Center City after testifying that he took Dougherty's words in the 2011 as "an idle threat."

During testimony, however, he listed a few occasions where Henon reached out to Williams directly about certain job sites in the city. Some of those are at the center of the ongoing trial, and which prosecutors allege Henon was doing Dougherty's dirty work.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

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