PHILADELPHIA – A powerful union boss who has long held a tight grip on construction jobs in the Philadelphia region and wielded political power in the city and Statehouse has been indicted on embezzlement and fraud charges along with a city councilman who allegedly did his bidding, and six others.
Johnny "Doc" Dougherty exerted complete control over the union, according to the 116-count indictment, using that power to "repeatedly and persistently steal its funds and put his own self-interests over that of the membership." All told, the defendants misspent more than $600,000 in union funds, officials said.
Dougherty, 58, leads the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, with 5,000 members, along with the city's Building Trades Council, an umbrella group with more than 70,000 members. He has been at the helm of the century-old electricians union for 25 years.
The union over the years has emerged as a major political donor, spending tens of millions of dollars through its political action committees, mostly to help Democrats in Pennsylvania.
According to the indictment, Dougherty used union credit cards to buy groceries and household goods and to splurge on restaurants, and let others in his orbit do the same. He allegedly used union funds to pay contractors for work at his South Philadelphia home and bar. And he put friends and family members on the union's payroll, showering them with raises and overtime for hours they didn't work and using them to do personal tasks, prosecutors said.
The union paid Dougherty $1.4 million between 2010 and 2016. He and the other defendants are due to appear in court Friday.
His lawyer, Henry E. Hockeimer, said Dougherty has devoted "all his energies" to the union for a quarter century, leading to dramatic increases in wages and benefits. "To allege that John in any way attempted to defraud the union he cares about so deeply is preposterous," Hockeimer said in a statement.