I had a nice little chuckle the other day when I was reading the latest installment in a growing series of Inquirer stories about FBI investigations involving local union leaders, politicians and appointees.
The story revealed that Joseph Ralston, an agent in the state Attorney General’s office, appeared to be the focus (or one of the focuses) of the federal investigation that’s been circling around International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, the union headed by John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty. It’s been just three weeks since the FBI initially raided Doc’s house, Local 98’s headquarters, and the offices of City Councilman Bobby Henon, who is on the union’s payroll. There have been new revelations about just how wide the FBI’s target is nearly every day since then.
“The pace of the investigation remains quick.”
That was the line that made me laugh. It’s a sober comment. Very newspaper. And funny, because it translated automatically in my mind to We’re not entirely sure where the hell this thing is going, but we’re keeping up the best we can.
But I’m sure Mayor Jim Kenney wasn’t laughing. And I’m sure he wasn’t laughing last night either, when another Inquirer story revealed that Jim Moylan — Kenney’s appointee to the hugely powerful Zoning Board of Adjustment, and Johnny Doc’s friend and chiropractor — is also someone the feds are interested in.
Kenney’s alliance with Johnny Doc was the subject of much chatter during the primary mayoral campaign last year. Dougherty helped organize a coalition of unions that threw its weight behind Kenney’s campaign, and was connected to a super PAC that poured money into TV ads supporting Kenney. The alliance led many, including some of the mayor’s opponents, to wonder whether Kenney could remain independent of Dougherty once he was in office.
Local 98’s political influence is the stuff of local legend, and Doc had personally been under investigation by the FBI 10 years ago. Dougherty was on a mission to carve out a new image for himself in the period before the mayoral election, and hadn’t had any really bad press in a while. But Kenney knew Doc’s baggage going in, and he hitched their wagons together anyway on the campaign trail. Since becoming mayor, he has also done him some favors, not least of which is the appointment of a friendly Zoning Board chairman. There was always a potential consequence to allying with Doc.
It’s worth noting here that Kenney’s office says that neither the mayor nor any administration staff has been interviewed by the FBI, and it has no reason to suspect the mayor is being targeted. However, citing anonymous sources, the Inquirer reported that the FBI’s investigation is, at least in part, focused on Local 98’s support of both Kenney and Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty (Doc’s brother) in the 2015 election.
If Moylan is indeed an FBI target, it’s the closest the whole investigation has come to Kenney yet. Kenney appointed him freely, and the decision to give such a close Local 98 ally one of the most important appointments in the whole city raised eyebrows, regardless of Moylan’s experience running a civic association in the city’s Pennsport neighborhood. After all, the Zoning Board can help make the difference between a flood or a trickle in terms of real estate development, and that has huge ramifications for jobs in the building trades, whose council is also led by Johnny Doc.
The whole affair didn’t look too good for Kenney two weeks ago. Today, it looks worse.
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