Philly Clout: Johnny Doc ditches Frank Keel at Local 98

FRANK KEEL, gravelly voiced PR mercenary and master of the all-caps subject line, has spent more than a dozen years dishing out bombastic and blustering political perspectives, usually on behalf of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Now his service to Philadelphia's powerful Electricians union comes to an end.

Keel tells Clout he met with Local 98 leader John Dougherty last week and was told his contract was ending as part of "significant organizational changes." It came as a surprise, Keel said.

"Unfortunately, I'm one of those casualties," he said. "He told me the union, going forward, is going to be a lot less involved in politics and media issues."

Keel and Local 98 over the years have been on opposite sides of issues. Keel said Doc signed off each time he had a client at odds with the union.

Last year, for example, Keel worked for Al Taubenberger while Local 98 supported Dan Tinney in the Republican primary for two at-large City Council seats. Most recently, Keel represented Teamsters Local 830 in opposition to the tax on sweetened beverages, while Dougherty pushed it for Mayor Kenney. The tax was signed into law last week.

"I honestly don't know if that was a factor," Keel said of the soda tax and the end of his contract. "I hope it wasn't the cause of my exit."

Clout reached out to Johnny Doc, who praised Keel's work and said he is a "great guy."

"We're just reorganizing," Dougherty said. "We are downsizing our political operation."

(Unrelated question: Will that mean any cuts to the union's drone surveillance program?)

Dougherty said that rather than paying a communications professional monthly, Local 98 will hire people for media relations from time to time.

"We're getting out of the monthly retainer business and we're going to be more issue-oriented," Dougherty said. "It will give me some financial flexibility."

Asked if the soda fight was a factor, Doc said of Keel: "He never saw a Coca-Cola he didn't want to drink. And some days it had a little rum in it."

Green out at Dilworth Paxson

We hear that Bill Green, the School Reform Commission member and former city councilman, recently left the Dilworth Paxson law firm, for which he had served as special counsel since 2014.

The circumstances of Green's departure are murky. Neither he nor Dilworth Paxson chairman and CEO Ajay Raju would comment Thursday.

In fact, we first heard back in May that Green, a corporate attorney, was no longer employed by the firm. His name has not been on its website since then.

Inquirer education reporter Kristen A. Graham reported in 2014 that Dilworth Paxson had snagged Green away from the Duane Morris firm because Raju had made a priority of attracting civil-powerhouse lawyers.

"We want to be a magnet for people like that," Raju said at the time. "We want to attract those folks who have steel in their spine, who think broadly beyond their clients, of the larger region."

Wonder what changed?

Here we go again . . .

As Clout first reported in February, former Bail Commissioner Tim O'Brien - arrested in 2013 and 2014 for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and pleading guilty the second time - was hired this year as a special assistant to Councilman David Oh. Oh said he was working part time on criminal-justice issues.

Last week, we were chasing a tip about O'Brien. City Council President Darrell Clarke's spokeswoman, Jane Roh, told us O'Brien was paid $20 per hour from Jan. 25 through April 28. OK, but how much was O'Brien paid in total? For that, Roh said we'd have to put in a Right-to-Know request.

The Law Department responded Wednesday, saying it was invoking its 30-day period to review the request, which sounds a lot like what former Mayor Michael Nutter's administration used to do instead of just answering simple questions.

Roh, when asked about this "Nutter-like" lack of transparency, repeatedly blamed the Law Department and refused to acknowledge that she had punted the request to it.

No problem, though. Records obtained by a Clout source – who only needed a few minutes (not 30 days) to dig up the info – showed that O'Brien had a daily pay rate of $160 and was paid $2,380. Which means he only worked about 15 days.

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

- Staff writers Chris Brennan and William Bender contributed to this column.

On Twitter: @ByChrisBrennan and @wbender99

Email: brennac@phillynews.com and benderw@phillynews.com 

Phone: 215-854-5973 and 215-854-5255