Philadelphia City Hall Credit: Dan Levy/Billy Penn

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During lockjaw negotiations over Comcast’s franchise deal with the city in 2015, union boss John Dougherty allegedly used Councilman Bobby Henon to steer $2 million in contract work to one of his associates, federal prosecutors suggested in their blistering 116-count indictment of the labor leader and his lawmaker pal.

When Dougherty, widely known as “Johnny Doc,” grew concerned Henon wasn’t doing his bidding at one point, the councilman assuaged him.

“I don’t give a fuck about anybody, all right, but fucking you and us, and you know that,” Henon told Dougherty, according to the indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Henon was speaking to the politically powerful “boss” of the electricians’ union — but also to his actual boss. On top of Henon’s $140,000 salary as the majority leader on City Council, he also takes home around $72,000 from a second, nondescript staff position at Local 98.

The alleged exchange has renewed scrutiny of lawmakers with side gigs outside City Hall.

“That is the money quote,” said David Thornburgh, director of good government group Committee of Seventy. “You’ve got two masters, so which one are you serving? I think the public has a right to know that you are putting their interests first.”

Henon is one of seven lawmakers on Council who reported secondary income on their most recent financial disclosure forms, not including pensions.

These side hustles have been a source of perennial inquiry. While their base annual salary sits at a plump $130,000 — three times the average household income in Philadelphia — councilmembers have historically bristled at criticism of extraneous income. They point to city ethics laws: So long as they recuse themselves from voting on issues that present a conflict of interest with their second job, it’s all above board.

And despite the scandalous charges against a sitting colleague, they’re apparently not feeling any pressure for reform.

‘Ask the Board of Ethics’

The wealthiest member of the body, freshman Councilman Allan Domb is the stand-out among his peers. Prior to his election in 2015, the powerhouse businessman made his career in real estate development, amassing a multimillion dollar property empire in Center City.

Domb, who donates his Council salary to Philly schools, says he has downsized his development work since joining the legislature. On Thursday, he said his outside work is now limited to brokering property deals and managing his extensive real estate portfolio — some 561 units or properties, according to his most recent financial disclosure.

But Domb says he and he colleagues are entitled to outside income so long as they keep it above board.

“Ask the Board of Ethics who calls them the most,” Domb said. “I want to make sure I’m totally above board with everything.”

The Board of Ethics couldn’t confirm which councilperson calls them the most.

But the idea that side gigs are fair game is widely shared by Domb’s colleagues. On top of his $137,336 annual salary, Councilman Brian O’Neill has long reported extraneous income as outside counsel for Fox Rothschild LLC — though his exact haul is not listed. Ditto for Councilman Derek Green, who receives a second paycheck from the firm Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Councilwoman Cherelle Parker both serve in paid advisory roles to Independence Blue Cross, according to their financial disclosures forms filed with the city last May.

Others have financial stake that don’t necessarily result in annual profit, but that city officials nonetheless disclose as financial interests.

Councilman David Oh declared his investment in two for-profit entities: an LLC he said he established to eventually do some “martial arts promotion” (which he confirmed he hasn’t done yet); and shares in a Montco-based tech healthcare startup (which he said a friend gave him for free and he has since gotten rid of).

Oh said he wouldn’t be opposed to placing some restrictions on second jobs, but did not want a blanket ban on outside income.

“My main interest is [council members] can do this job and that they’re transparent about it,” Oh said.

Mayor Jim Kenney, who notably has not called on Henon to resign, also benefited from lucrative side gigs during his two-decade tenure on Council. Beyond his salary, he earned an additional six figures as consultant at Vitetta Architects and Engineers, served on the Independence Blue Cross board and taught as an adjunct professor at Penn. Kenney stepped down from those positions when he took the city’s highest job, where he earns an annual salary of $218,474.

Other elected officials also game their influence in the name of a side hustle. Take ward leader and Sheriff Jewell Williams. The embattled Democrat, who faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment, reportedly runs a consulting firm for judicial candidates that raked in $34,000 in 2017.

Embracing the ‘Philly shrug’

The very nature of Henon’s “side job” is already shaping up to be a key part of his defense against federal prosecutors. At his arraignment Thursday, defense attorney Brian McMonagle suggested that the indictment’s criminal allegations are merely Henon, a pro-union candidate, doing what he was elected to do: represent union workers.

Still, Henon’s indictment raises questions about whether he should have recused himself from legislation that would financial impact on his other employer, Local 98.

Lawmakers with second jobs like to say they’ll sit out any vote that even has the whiff like a conflict of interest. Domb recused himself from a vote just last week because of the bill’s implications for his real estate empire.

But ethical standards in Philly aren’t always clear — nor closely followed.

Philly’s conflict of interest law has two components: It requires an official to remove themselves from 1) any action in a matter of personal financial interest, or 2) in which certain family members or for-profit businesses of which they are a member have an interest. But Philly’s law doesn’t apply to nonprofits, while the state ethics law does. (Ironically, Henon introduced a bill in 2015 to bring Philly’s ethics code in line with the state’s to avoid confusion.)

Thornburgh, of the Committee of Seventy, feels there should be no ambiguity about where lawmakers’ allegiances fall.

“This town is too liberal in use of the Philly shrug,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to think twice on any given decision [an elected official] makes. I would be surprised if this didn’t show up on the policy agenda or the talking points for Council candidates who share that sense of outrage.”

City Council’s side hustles

The following information is from councilmembers’ mandatory financial disclosures for 2017, which is the most recent available year. Pension income is not included below.

Cindy Bass

Secondary income: None
Business interests: None

Jannie Blackwell

Secondary income: None
Business interests: None

Darrell Clarke

Secondary income: None
Business interests: None

Allan Domb

Secondary income: More than 500 investment properties or units.
Business interests: More than 500 investment properties or units.

Derek Green 

Secondary income: Counsel at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel
Business interests: None

Bill Greenlee

Secondary income: None
Business interests: None

Helen Gym

Secondary income: None
Business interests: None

Bobby Henon 

Secondary income: Nondescript position at IBEW Local 98, a rental property in Wildwood, N.J.
Business interests: Rental property, Local 98

Kenyatta Johnson

Secondary income: None
Business interests: None

Curtis Jones 

Secondary income: None
Business interests: None

David Oh

Secondary income: None
Business interests: Limited partner at CarePartnerPlus LLC, principal at KI Sports Entertainment LLC

Brian O’Neill

Secondary income: Counsel at Fox Rothschild
Business interests: None

Cherelle Parker

Secondary income: Advisory position with Independence Blue Cross
Business interests: None

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez 

Secondary income: None
Business interests: None

Blondell Reynolds Brown

Secondary income: Advisory committee member at Independence Blue Cross, consultant at Ann Garrot Foundation
Business interests: None

Mark Squilla 

Secondary income: None
Business interests: None

Al Taubenberger

Secondary income: Penn Liberty Real Estate LLC
Business interests: None

Max Marin (he/him) was Billy Penn's investigative reporter from 2018 to 2021. A graduate of Temple University, he has produced award-winning journalism on local politics, criminal justice, immigration...