City Council side jobs: All the totally legal ways Philly’s electeds supplement income

Council members earn $130,000 a year. For a few, that’s only one source of income.

Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall

Wikimedia Commons

The salaries of Philadelphia City Council members are among the highest in the nation. At about $130,000 a year, 17 council members are bringing in more than $2 million a year in salaries combined.

For some members of council though, this well-paying full-time job isn’t their only source of income.

Four members of City Council have jobs at for-profit companies, while several others have secondary sources of income ranging from owning properties in the city to pulling in a pension while they’re not actually retired. District councilman Bobby Henon made more than $70,000 last year in his second job with IBEW Local 98. Councilman Brian O’Neill has long worked as an attorney with Fox Rothschild. Freshman councilman Allan Domb is a powerhouse businessman running a real estate business and working with restauranteurs — though he’s donating his entire City Council salary to the school district.

These details and more are spelled out in recently-filed financial disclosure forms required to be completed by city employees. It’s perfectly legal for council members to hold other positions while they’re serving, and one of the people who used this most in the past was former Councilman and now-Mayor Jim Kenney. On top of his job as an at-large councilman, he also worked as a consultant at an architecture firm and served on the board of Independence Blue Cross. He’s left Council, of course, and pulls in a much higher salary as the city’s chief executive… but he’s still pulling in thousands in pension payments.

Most political watchers say there’s nothing inherently wrong with local politicians holding other positions, so long as it doesn’t become a conflict of interest. That’s the whole point of them disclosing these outside gigs. The council members who have had other jobs for years are often asked about how they avoid a conflict, and they’ll say every time that they recuse themselves from a vote that would even look like a conflict of interest.

So in the interest of transparency, we went through the financial disclosure forms of every city council member and the mayor to see which of these elected officials had secondary sources of income. We’re also including the freshman council members whose sources of income in 2015 were their jobs at the time.

Also in those disclosure forms, which can be publicly searched here, are debts owed and the full disclosure of gifts like tickets to sporting events or upscale dinners. Here’s what we found:

Mayor Jim Kenney

Mayor Jim Kenney

Mayor Jim Kenney

Chris Montgomery/Billy Penn

Including his City Council salary, Jim Kenney brought in nearly $350,000 last year. On top of his job as an at-large councilman, he worked as a consultant at Vitetta Architects and Engineers, served on the Amerihealth/ Independence Blue Cross board, was an adjunct professor at Penn and brought in hefty pensions from both the city and the state.

We know how much Kenney made last year thanks to the mayoral financial disclosure being more detailed than what’s required by City Council. In this form, Kenney was required to disclose how much he made at each of his other gigs in 2015. Here’s what it showed he made:

  • Vitetta Architects and Engineers: $69,004.52
  • Amerihealth/ IBC: $43,200.00
  • University of Pennsylvania: $1,312.50
  • City Council: $10,833.01
  • City of Philadelphia retirement: $83,607.51
  • State retirement: $9,327.12

It’s important to note that when Kenney was elected mayor, he gave up those side jobs he held before. Spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said he quit work as an adjunct at Penn in February 2015 (hence the relatively small salary from the university last year) and his jobs at Independence Blue Cross and Vitetta ended in December before he took office. The City Council salary listed above is because he quit his job on Council at the end of January 2015 to run for mayor.

While Kenney was a councilman, he caught plenty of heat for his work with Vitetta. Former Mayor John Street brought up Kenney’s work with Vitetta and Independence Blue Cross when they were sparring over ethics legislation and how to use the city’s allotted box seats at sports arenas. His job with Vitetta has come up several times since he took the consulting position in 2002 saying he couldn’t support his family on the then-council salary of $82,000 a year. The firm didn’t pursue city work after hiring Kenney, though it was responsible for City Hall restoration, for which it won the bid for prior to Kenney’s hiring.

You also might notice the mayor has a significant pension. He spent 23 years on council, earning him $7,577.72 a month in pension payments, the Inquirer reported last year. He also has a state pension from the time he spent as an aide to former state Sen. Vince Fumo.

District council members

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City Council

Bobby Henon

Represents: District 6 – Parts of Port Richmond, Tacony, Frankford, Mayfair, Holmesburg and Northeast Philly

Party: Democrat

Other source of income in  2015: In addition to a property he owns that brings in some cash, Henon — the majority leader — has been on the payroll at IBEW Local 98, one of the most powerful unions in the state, since he was elected to council in 2011. A former electrician from Northeast Philadelphia, Henon became the political director of the union and spent time lobbying for legislation that would have impacted its membership before he was elected.

In 2015, Henon made $71,711 from the union which listed his position only as “office” in its filings with the Department of Labor. His office didn’t respond to questions about what exactly the work with IBEW entails and he’s not listed as a top staffer on the union’s website. He has however received a boatload of political support from IBEW Local 98, which is arguably the most politically active union in the state and is run by John Dougherty, the connected union boss and head of the building trades labor groups.

In Henon’s post with IBEW, he reports directly to Dougherty and has praised the union leader as a pivotal person in his career. Without Dougherty, “I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” he told The Inquirer.

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City Council

Brian O’Neill

Represents: District 10 – Parts of Northeast Philly

Party: Republican

Other source of income in  2015: O’Neill has long been an employee at Fox Rothschild, a large law firm here in Philly. The longtime Republican who represents parts of Northeast Philadelphia was, in 2004, seen as the target of ethics legislation proposed by Street that would have made it difficult for O’Neill to continue working for the firm. Ethics legislation backed by Street and sponsored by then-Councilman and would-be Mayor Michael Nutter had the potential to make it harder for City Council members to hold outside jobs. Some speculated O’Neill was the target of this because of votes he had cast against what Street wanted earlier that year.

O’Neill is still working as counsel at Fox Rothschild and his work there is some of the most controversial in terms of side jobs council members have, largely because the city has frequently awarded contracts to the firm. O’Neill has said he abstains from any vote with even of the appearance of a conflict of interest.

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City Council

Cherelle Parker

Represents: District 9 – Parts of North and Northwest Philly

Party: Democrat

Other source of income in  2015: Parker is a freshman City Council member elected last year to represent District 9. She is a former state representative, so her source of income last year was her state salary. State representatives make about $85,000 a year (so you’ll note she got a nice pay bump in switching to local politics). Clearly, she’s no longer receiving this salary.

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City Council

Mark Squilla

Represents: District 1 – Parts of South Philly east of Broad Street, Pennsport, Old City, Society Hill, Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Kensington and Port Richmond

Party: Democrat

Other source of income in  2015: The only secondary source of income listed on Squilla’s financial disclosure form is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. His chief of staff Anne Kelly King said this is his state pension that he receives. The city councilman who was elected in 2011 worked in the state Office of the Auditor General for 25 years prior.

At-large council members

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City Council

Allan Domb

Represents: Entire city

Party: Democrat

Other source of income in  2015: Allan Domb’s accountant is very, very busy. Most city council members’ financial disclosure forms were a page, maybe two. Domb’s was more than a dozen and he listed every source of income he had last year, down to the unit numbers of the condos he owns. His sources of income included dozens of properties, condominiums, restaurants and firms including Allan Domb Real Estate, AD Mortgage Corporation, Schlesinger’s, Parc Rittenhouse, Pier Five Marina, West Bank Hospitality, Stephen Starr, Starr restaurant organization, Barclay restaurant group, SBI restaurant partners, 1801 Chestnut Associates, the list goes on… and on… and on.

Known as the “Condo King,” Domb was a well-known figure in the city’s real estate and restaurant circles who then spent millions of dollars bankrolling his run to serve as an at-large City Council member. He has vowed to make decisions on Council that are based on what’s best for the city, not his business interests. He’s also donating his entire $130,000 Council salary to the School District of Philadelphia.

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City Council

Derek Green

Represents: Entire city

Party: Democrat

Other source of income in  2015: Freshman City Councilman Derek Green, a former aide to longtime Councilwoman Marian Tasco, listed two sources of income on his financial disclosure from last year in addition to his city salary. He made some cash last year through investments and also serving as counsel at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell and Hippel, a law firm with locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. A spokeswoman for his office said he’s still “Of Counsel” at Obermayer, a designation usually given to an attorney who has a relationship with a lawfirm but isn’t an associate or a partner. His bio on Obermayer’s website says his practice areas include litigation and government relations.

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City Council

Helen Gym

Represents: Entire city

Party: Democrat

Other source of income in  2015: Gym is a freshman city councilwoman who was elected last year on a platform largely focused on education and children. Prior to being elected to serve on City Council, she was known in the community as a fierce advocate for public education. Last year, she made $9,600 serving as the interim executive director of Asian Americans United, a non-profit. That position ended Jan. 31 last year and she’s not currently employed with the group.

Gym also was paid by the University of Pennsylvania for leading a single class at the school, according to her spokesman. She no longer holds a position at Penn either.

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City Council

David Oh

Represents: Entire city

Party: Republican

Other source of income in  2015: A lawyer by trade, City Councilman David Oh listed that he was on the payroll last year at Zarwin Baum Devito Kaplan Schaer & Toddy, a lawfirm headquartered in Philadelphia with offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He’s listed as an immigration lawyer at the firm, but Oh said he’s no longer associated with Zarwin Baum and isn’t receiving income from them. He said his relationship with the firm ended at the beginning of 2015. Oh, who was elected to City Council in 2011, led his own firm for the better part of two decades that had merged with Zarwin Baum.

He now has an active license practicing law after there was some controversy that his law license had been suspended because he failed to pay a $200 renewal fee. However, he says he’s not practicing law or working for any entity besides the city.

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City Council

Blondell Reynolds Brown

Represents: Entire city

Party: Democrat

Other source of income in  2015: The only other source of income for Reynolds Brown, an at-large city councilwoman first elected last year to serve her fifth term on council, is a rental property she owns located on North 33rd Street in West Philadelphia. It’s not clear how much money Reynolds Brown made last year from owning the property.

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City Council

Al Taubenberger

Represents: Entire city

Party: Republican

Other source of income in  2015: Taubenberger was elected to City Council last year and in 2015 earned incomes from the Philadelphia Parking Authority and the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. He served as the executive director at the Chamber, but is no longer on the payroll there, according to a spokesman. In 2014, he made about $67,000 a year at the Chamber, according to its federal tax forms. Taubenberger was receiving a stipend at the PPA for serving on its board, and while he is still a member of the board at the PPA, he’s doing it on a pro bono basis, the spokesman said.

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