City

The FBI’s Interest in Kenyatta Johnson Appears to Be Heating Up

A Northern Liberties lawyer received an intriguing call from an FBI agent the same day the feds announced charges against Johnny Doc and Bobby Henon.


kenyatta johnson

City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

On January 30th, the same day that the U.S. Department of Justice announced a sprawling indictment against electricians union head John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty and Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon, among others, Northern Liberties attorney Jordan Rushie says he got an intriguing phone call. On the other end of the line was was an FBI special agent named R.J. Haag.

Rushie says that Haag asked him if he would be willing to share files relating to a lawsuit that Rushie had filed against City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson on behalf of Bag of Holdings, a company owned by developer Mike Pollack, who has partnered with Ori Feibush on many Point Breeze properties.

We asked Rushie if he had any idea why the FBI was making these inquiries, and he said that the FBI agent made it quite clear.

“He told me that the FBI is actively investigating Kenyatta Johnson,” remembers Rushie.

In the suit, which was unsuccessful, Pollack claimed that Johnson had been “trying to sell city-owned properties to political insiders and demanding purchasers use his preferred developers.”

Within a few hours of Haag’s phone call to Rushie about the Pollack suit, the FBI agent sent him an email, which Philly Mag has reviewed.

“Thank you for agreeing to provide the Government with records pertaining to Bag Of Holdings’ interest in the properties …” wrote Haag. “We will gladly take whatever files you deem potentially relevant to our investigation.”

In the email, Haag instructed Rushie to send the files to the attention of FBI agent Robert McManigal, who was one of the investigators involved in convicting Chaka Fattah, Jr., son of the disgraced (and also-convicted) United States congressman. Contacted by Philly Mag, Haag declined to confirm the existence of an investigation of Johnson; McManigal did not respond to a request for comment.

Rushie tells Philly Mag that his office is currently organizing the file, which he describes as “very large,” and that he will send the documents to McManigal by the end of the week.

For his part, Johnson says he wasn’t aware of the FBI’s request to obtain the files, and he adds, “I have done nothing wrong.”

Pollack’s claims are similar to the ones made by Feibush in his own lawsuits against Johnson.

In Feibush’s first suit, which Feibush filed while he was running against Johnson for his Council seat, he claimed that Johnson had used what’s known as councilmanic prerogative to block Feibush from buying certain properties in an act of political retaliation.

Feibush lost the election but eventually won the suit.

Feibush later sued Johnson again over a related matter, but that case was dismissed after a judge ruled that Johnson was protected by a legal concept called “qualified immunity” that shields government officials from civil liability in some circumstances.

Meanwhile, rumors have already been swirling around Johnson in light of the indictment against Dougherty, Henon, and other officials of IBEW Local 98. One section of the indictment describes alleged conversations between Dougherty and Henon regarding the controversial soda tax, which Dougherty and Henon were trying to help the city push through.

According to the allegations contained in the indictment, Henon suggested to Dougherty that a fellow City Council member might need a “hug” in order to support the soda tax, and Dougherty allegedly replied, “Let him know that once you get this stuff, there is gonna be a ton of major league jobs, that his wife [is] more than qualified for.”

Well, the Inquirer has reported that sources familiar with the investigation have indicated that the City Council member in question is, yep, Johnson, an assertion that Johnson’s office has flatly denied.