Mayor Kenney, Where Is the Call for Bobby Henon to Step Down?

The mayor needs to be just as tough on white political figures who come under fire as he is on Black ones.

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(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

As an experienced politician, Mayor Jim Kenney should know by now that when it comes to holding political figures accountable, consistency is the key to keeping the public’s trust.

Someone should have reiterated this to him last week while he was dodging questions from the press regarding the 116-count indictment against longtime Democratic political kingpin John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, City Councilman Bobby Henon, and other officials of Local 98 of the Electrical Workers union. So far, Kenney has been silent on calling out either one of those marquee names, and part of me isn’t surprised. (Let’s not forget that Dougherty was one of the first people Kenney had a meeting with following his mayoral inauguration.)

But what’s actively frustrating is that Kenney can’t seem to summon the same outrage over alleged misconduct and corruption on the part of white politicos that he does on the part of Black ones.

A week before Henon and Dougherty, who have both pleaded not guilty to all charges, were indicted, Kenney had — for the second time — called on embattled sheriff Jewell Williams to resign, after city officials agreed to pay a $127,500 settlement to a former Sheriff’s Office employee who had sued Williams for allegedly sexually harassing her. (Williams has categorically denied all allegations, and his lawyer has said he was not involved in the city’s decision to settle.) I gave Kenney a well-deserved nod for being one of the first and few politicians to publicly call on Williams to step down. But now I am left wondering: Where is that same furor over Councilman Henon?

Williams hasn’t even been the subject of a police investigation, let alone been indicted, while Henon is currently facing criminal charges that could lead to some serious prison time. It would, of course, be easy for Kenney to simply resort to pulling the “innocent until proven guilty” card, but he didn’t pull that card when now-disgraced former D.A. Seth Williams was charged with 23 counts of public corruption.

“Obviously, it’s a terrible situation,” Kenney said in 2017 when Williams was first indicted. “He cannot conduct the duties and responsibilities of his office in this current condition, so for the good of the office and for the good of the city, he should probably step aside.”

And how exactly does Kenney expect Henon to “conduct the duties and responsibilities of his office” in his “current condition”? What makes Henon any different from Seth Williams following their respective indictments?

Yet another example: When now-convicted former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was seeking re-election while under federal indictment, Kenney fanned the flames in the candidate’s 2016 primary race against Dwight Evans.

“[Evans] has experience in city and state government, has built relationships and is not a divisive figure,” Kenney said when he endorsed Evans at the time. “He is a builder of coalitions, and that is the biggest significant factor.”

Funny how we didn’t see such fierce condemnation of Johnny Doc’s Local 98 leadership from Kenney at a fundraiser co-sponsored by the union a day after the feds moved on its boss. (Also funny how the invitations included requests for money to be sent to Local 98 political director Marita Crawford, who is also under indictment.)

It’s hard not to see Kenney’s double standard as racial bias, and it’s quite unfair to Black Philadelphians, who are expected to promptly disavow leaders within our community who are accused of wrongdoing. If Kenney can tell the public not to support Seth Williams, Jewell Williams, and Chaka Fattah over their controversies, it goes without question that the message should be the same on Johnny Doc and Bobby Henon.

Keep that same energy, Mayor Kenney.