Bobby Henon, left, and his attorney Brian McMonagle, walking to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia in October 2021. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Former City Council member Bobby Henon was sentenced today to 3.5 years in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release for taking bribes from former IBEW Local 98 leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty and related charges.

“The people thought they were electing a councilman, but instead they elected a minion for John Dougherty and Local 98. And that’s clearly not what the city bargained for,” U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Schmehl said.

Henon addressed the packed courtroom before he was sentenced, apologizing for his “mistakes” and for putting the union before his constituents.

He maintained he had never intended to break the law. “I never took a bribe, and I never asked for one,” he told the judge.

“I had a lot of time to reflect on my life and how I lived my life. I know I’ve made mistakes and today I must answer for some of them. These mistakes were not motivated which some suggested they were. I take responsibility for these mistakes, and I am remorseful for my actions,” Henon said. “To the people that I served, I apologize for letting you down.”

Henon must report to federal prison on April 17. Schmehl also ordered him to forfeit more than $207,000, pay a $50,000 fine and a $1,000 special assessment, and perform 100 hours of community service work.

His sentencing comes more than a year after a jury found him guilty of 10 counts of bribery, conspiracy and honest services fraud. Dougherty, who was also found guilty of 11 counts, has not been sentenced yet.

Over the course of a sprawling six-week trial in October and November 2021, prosecutors portrayed Henon as a councilmember on retainer for Dougherty.

In return for a $70,000 no-show union job, the government argued, Henon did Dougherty’s bidding on council, drafting legislation, arranging private meetings, calling hearings, and pressuring companies and other unions.

The 42-month sentence Henon received was on the shorter end compared to similar corruption prosecutions in the past. In 2005 former city treasurer Corey Kemp was convicted of accepting gifts from people seeking city contracts and got 10 years, and the following year former council member Rick Mariano was sentenced to 6.5 years for taking about $30,000 in bribes. 

In 2009 former state senator Vince Fumo received a 4.5-year sentence on fraud, conspiracy, and other charges, while in 2017 former district attorney Seth Williams was sentenced to 5 years for corruption.

Here are some of the high and low points of the lengthy investigation and prosecution of Henon and Dougherty.

Who is Bobby Henon?

Henon, of East Torresdale, is an electrician by trade who rose through the administrative ranks at the politically powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union Local 98. In 1999 Dougherty made Henon political director. In that position he served as the union’s chief lobbyist and organizer of its many election-related activities.  

In 2011, with financial support from the union, Henon was elected to the District 6 Council seat. He later became majority leader. He was indicted on federal charges in 2019, along with Dougherty and several other union members. Henon resigned from Council in January 2022, two months after his conviction.

Who is John Dougherty?

Dougherty, known as Johnny Doc, grew up in South Philadelphia and in 1993 became the business manager — that is, the leader — of IBEW Local 98. 

He built up the organization to more than 5,000 members and turned it into a political powerhouse that contributes millions annually to local, state, and national candidates. Those include Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, close Dougherty ally Mayor Jim Kenney, state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty (Doc’s brother), governors, state legislators, councilmembers and many others.

Dougherty also headed the Building & Construction Trades Council, an umbrella group of unions. After being convicted in November 2021, he stepped down from his union positions.

How did they get in trouble?

The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating Dougherty and IBEW Local 98 since at least the mid-2000s. In 2015 and 2016 the FBI wiretapped phone lines belonging to Dougherty, Henon and other union officials and associates. 

In dozens of profanity-laced phone calls that were played in court, Dougherty can be heard directing Henon to call hearings or take other actions in council. The two men discussed how Henon should pressure Dougherty’s rivals in the labor movement and companies that he thought should give more work to union electricians.

The jury also saw text messages, emails, fundraising letters, financial records, photographs, and videos of City Council hearings, and heard testimony from an FBI agent and 52 others. 

So what did Henon do for Doc, per the trial?

On one occasion, Dougherty’s car was towed and he angrily demanded Henon hold hearings on tow companies. 

On another, the union leader told Henon to support Kenney’s proposed soda tax as retaliation against Dougherty’s rivals in the Teamsters union, which includes beverage truck drivers. 

The lawmaker threatened to schedule Council hearings on a city plumbing code update in order to pressure the plumbers union, who opposed Dougherty’s bid to head the Building Trades Council.

Henon helped Dougherty get the Department of Licenses & Inspection to issue stop-work orders on the installation of MRI machines at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which was being done by out-of-state, non-union workers.

Henon held up a major piece of legislation renewing Comcast’s cable TV franchise over Dougherty’s demands the company hire more union workers, and arranged meetings between Comcast executives and the union boss.

In a recent filing related to the sentencing, prosecutors reportedly alleged that Henon also used his council seat to pressure executives at the deli meat company Dietz & Watson to spend $3 million to hire unnecessary Local 98 workers at a plant in his district.

What else did Henon do?

Prosecutors said he solicited bribes from two other people. One was Joseph Ashdale, who at the time headed the glaziers (window installers) union and chaired the board of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. 

Henon’s chief of staff Courtney Voss, with whom he was having an affair, needed new windows for her home. Prosecutors say Henon tried to have Ashdale pay for the window glass in exchange for his promise to vote against a proposed audit of the PPA. After FBI raids on Henon’s and Dougherty’s office revealed the council member was being investigated, Ashdale declined to pay for the windows.

The other briber was James Gardler, president of Communication Workers of America Local 13000, which gave Henon $13,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for holding a hearing that created negative publicity for Verizon. CWA was striking against Verizon at the time.

Neither Ashdale nor Gardler were charged.

What happens next?

Henon can appeal his sentence. In addition, he and Dougherty have both said they would appeal their convictions.

Even if his sentence is not shortened, Henon may not end up serving his full prison term. Mariano, for example, was released after serving 4 years of his original 6.5-year sentence, and Williams’ stint in jail was shortened to 3 years for good behavior. Kemp, the city treasurer under Mayor John Street, served 9 years of his 10-year sentence.

Dougherty still faces two other federal trials. In one case, he and a few other Local 98 members were charged with embezzling $600,000 from Local 98 to pay for groceries, home appliances, hotel stays and restaurant dinners. 

Four of the accused, including former political director Marita Crawford, who succeeded Henon in the job, recently pleaded guilty. The trial for Dougherty and the remaining defendants is scheduled to begin next month

In the other case, Dougherty and his nephew Gregory Fiocca were indicted on conspiracy and extortion charges for allegedly threatening “violence and economic harm” on a contractor if he did not continue employing and paying Fiocca, even for hours he didn’t work. That trial is reportedly scheduled for September

Disclosure: IBEW Local 98 represents engineers, camera personnel, audio, and maintenance techs at WHYY, Billy Penn’s parent company.

Meir Rinde is an investigative reporter at Billy Penn covering topics ranging from politics and government to history and pop culture. He’s previously written for PlanPhilly, Shelterforce, NJ Spotlight,...