Johnny Doc corruption charges

Who’s paying for Bobby Henon’s attorney? Not taxpayers (anymore)

The city spent $7,800 in attorneys fees for the councilman’s staff during the FBI probe.

Councilman Bobby Henon

Councilman Bobby Henon

Jared Piper/PHLCouncil
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Updated 10:24 p.m.

City Councilman Bobby Henon is a wanted man. The indictment handed down by federal prosecutors on Wednesday implicates the two-term lawmaker in highly orchestrated embezzlement and corruption scheme alongside labor leader John Dougherty and other Local 98 electricians’ union officials.

The implications here are plenty — some less clear than others. But one sure thing is that Henon is no longer eligible to receive legal counsel on the taxpayer’s dime. Not for the feds’ case against him, at least.

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Immediately after the FBI raided Henon’s office in 2016, the city’s chief legal team sought outside counsel. Officials described it as a routine practice at the time. Normally, the Law Department’s in-house attorneys represent city employees when they are being investigated over government business. But in cases where there’s potential for conflict of interest, they bring in pinch-hitters from outside defense firms at the city’s standard rate of $225 an hour.

But the city charter only requires that the government to provide legal counsel until a criminal indictment is made, according to Andrew Richman, chief of staff for City Solicitor Marcel S. Pratt.

“The Law Department will immediately stop payment of all legal fees and costs if it determines that a government investigation does not relate to conduct within the scope of an official or employee’s official duties,” Richman said “or if a law enforcement agency conducting an investigation brings criminal charges against the City official or employee.”

It was initially reported in 2016 that the city secured criminal defense lawyer Brian McMonagle. The high-power attorney has represented everyone from from Bill Cosby to Philadelphia police officers — and ironically, even a political consultant who was convicted of bilking Henon’s election campaign in for $50,000 in 2014.

But for reasons that are still unclear, the city ultimately didn’t spent a penny on McMonagle throughout the two-year federal probe into Henon’s union work.

“Councilman Henon and the McMonagle Perri law firm never moved forward with finalizing the contract,” Richman said.

The firm McMonagle, Perri, McHugh & Mischak continues to rep the councilman, however. In a statement declaring his innocence Wednesday, Henon referred all questions about the charges against him to McMonagle. The attorney did not immediately return a message left at his office on Wednesday.

In addition to his $140,000-a-year salary the majority leader on Council, Henon also works part-time doing nondescript “office” work for Local 98, for which he is paid $72,000 annually. Wednesday’s indictment alleges the nature of his union work was far more involved with his governmental duties than previously reported. A spokesperson for Local 98 said the union is not paying Henon’s legal fees.

The city did cover legal expenses for Henon’s staff throughout the federal investigation.

Richman confirmed the spent $7,807 to retain the firm Halim Drossner PC on behalf of Courtney Voss, Henon’s longtime chief of staff. These expenses were incurred during the fiscal year 2017, he added.

The city has a long, expensive history of outsourcing legal help when there is the potential for conflict of interest. In fiscal crises of administrations past, officials have tried to rein in wild spending on outside counsel — which, at one point, swelled $6 million over its annual budget. For the current fiscal year, the city has reserved $3.7 million for outside legal services.

Several members of Henon’s staff departed for other pastures in the months after the FBI raid. On Wednesday, a sheriff’s deputy stood guard outside his office.

Henon is up for reelection this year; he has stated he’s not planning to step down.

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