Powerful Philly IBEW in corruption probe

In a new court filing, prosecutors investigating John J. Dougherty's extensive home renovations disclose what they say is the labor leader's explanation for how he paid for some of the work: His father-in-law provided $200,000. But in the same court filing, entered late Wednesday, prosecutors say the chief financial officer for the contractor has no record of any $200,000 payment. Sources said authorities had been told by parties involved that the $200,000 was delivered in cash.

The document was filed in preparation for the May 19 trial of the contractor, Donald "Gus" Dougherty Jr., who is accused of doing much of the work free in violation of a law that prohibits contractors from providing gifts to leaders of unions doing related work.

John Dougherty, business manager of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, remains under investigation but has not been charged with any wrongdoing. He says he has done nothing wrong.

The documents added detail to the allegations about a close financial tie between the Doughertys, who are not related but who have been friends since childhood in South Philadelphia. They include:

That Gus Dougherty gave John Dougherty a $5,533 ladies' Cartier watch that the union leader, in turn, gave to a "personal friend" as a birthday gift in 2004.

That Gus Dougherty improperly collected $900,000 from a special union fund even as he failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars into a separate union health and welfare account. Prosecutors say this is additional evidence that the contractor had a motive to do free work for John Dougherty.

Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., who represents John Dougherty, declined to comment. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anita Eve and Paul Gray would not elaborate on their filing.

Gus Dougherty's lawyer, Eric Sitarchuk, declined to comment on the $200,000 issue, but he said he would vigorously oppose the government's motion to allow the jury to hear about the watch and the alleged payment of nearly $900,000.

Eve and Gray argue that the new allegations buttress their case that Gus Dougherty violated the federal Taft-Hartley Act. The act prohibits the payment of money or other gifts to an officer or employee of a labor organization that represents a contractor's employees. Union officers and employees are also barred from accepting such payments, though fair-market transactions are permitted.

IBEW Local 98 lawyer George Bochetto said the local, its officers, and the vast majority of its members were "victims of the acts" of Gus Dougherty, and that "aggressive legal action" was being pursued to hold Gus Dougherty financially responsible for his actions.

"There has never been a scintilla of evidence produced or even alleged that the union in any way countenanced or, for that matter, at the time, even knew about the activities of Gus Dougherty," Bochetto wrote in a letter to The Inquirer yesterday.

Gus Dougherty pleaded guilty last month to 98 federal charges. He admitted paying himself and employees in cash to avoid paying $2.6 million in taxes and about $1 million in required contributions to the union's employee benefit plan. He also pleaded guilty to bribing a bank official who helped him obtain $4.7 million in loans despite his poor credit rating.

Gus Dougherty is contesting the two counts alleging the illegal payments to John Dougherty, who just lost a primary race for the Democratic nomination to replace State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo.

Gus Dougherty's trial will focus on allegations of illegal payments to John Dougherty - through the sale of a Shore house for $24,000 less than market value, and the performance of $115,000 of electrical work on the labor leader's house during the renovation.

The total renovation cost exceeded $400,000, with other work given to another contractor.

In their new filing, prosecutors say Gus Dougherty's firm, Dougherty Electric, got $892,000 between 2001 and 2005 from a special fund intended to subsidize contractors who hired union workers to help them compete against nonunion shops.

He withdrew most of this money as cash, and spent it on such items as a $40,000 entertainment system for his Shore home, prosecutors say in the documents.

The government says he should have been ineligible for the help from the fund because he failed to make $869,000 in required payments to a separate union health and welfare fund.

The government's filing also cites a May 2006 letter from another lawyer for John Dougherty that cited his father-in-law as the source of $200,000, with $52,000 more added by John Dougherty.

Federal authorities are suspicious of John Dougherty's explanation of how he paid for the renovations.

Prosecutors said in their filing that the payment was not documented for more than a year and not until after the people involved realized they were under federal investigation.

John Dougherty's father-in-law, Joseph Conroy of South Philadelphia, declined to comment yesterday on the reported $200,000 payment. Conroy, 68, who formerly worked in the trucking industry, recently was a court aide, earning about $39,000 a year.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Any attorneys that represent the IBEW are scum. Any politicians who work with the IBEW are scum.

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