Just who is Councilman Bobby Henon’s boss? It’s confusing, because he gets two paychecks. One, for $138,890 a year, is to represent Philadelphia taxpayers. The second check comes from the electricians’ union, which pays him $71,711 annually to perform unknown duties and report directly to the local’s leader, John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty.
Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has political juice in the Democratic Party. Dougherty used the union’s clout to get his brother, Kevin, elected to the state Supreme Court, and his neighborhood pal, Jim Kenney, to the mayor’s office. He’s also helped elect a host of lesser politicians and judges.
But having Local 98 as one of his bosses may be a problem for Henon. Staff writers Craig McCoy, Chris Brennan, and Mark Fazlollah reported that the FBI tapped Henon’s phone between August 2015 and August 2016 in a long-running union corruption investigation. The tap continued even after the FBI exploded into Henon’s City Hall office last summer and carted out boxes of documents to look for evidence.
Council members are allowed to hold more than one job, but that doesn’t make it right. The political and labor movement goals of Henon’s two masters are too intertwined. Conflicts of interest are inevitable when his bosses’ agendas don’t match.
When that happens, even Henon may question who is his boss. The only right answer is the people who elected him. If he can’t put them first, he should resign from Council.
Henon’s dilemma is just more evidence that Council should change its rules and ban outside employment. Why do they need second jobs anyway? Council members make more than enough to carve out a nice life. They are paid between $130,000 to $163,000. That’s three times the city’s median household income, $38,253.
Henon may be the only sitting Council member known to have his phone tapped by the FBI, but 2016 disclosure statements show he isn’t the only member with a potential conflict of interest.
Councilmen Allan Domb, owner of Domb Real Estate, and Al Taubenberger, who earns income from Boland Realty, must avoid conflicts when Council plays a role in regulating land use. Councilman Derek Green reported income from the politically powerful Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel law firm. Councilman Brian O’Neill works for the equally well connected law firm of Fox Rothschild.
It’s unlikely that any of the Council members with apparent conflicts will introduce a bill to ban outside employment. That raises the stakes for them to make the right choices when it counts.
But why leave it up to them? It only takes nine votes to pass a bill in City Council. Someone should have the guts to introduce legislation banning members from having second jobs, so their colleagues won’t have to prove who they work for.