The former head of the Philadelphia Licensing and Inspections Department said on Tuesday that union leader John Dougherty had previously threatened at a controversial 2015 meeting over alleged code violations at a controversial construction site he allegedly had. could “have [him] replaced.
Taking the witness stand in Dougherty’s federal corruption trial, Carlton Williams – who served as department head between 2012 and 2015 under former mayor Michael Nutter – said he was called to the meeting with the city councilor Bobby Henon to discuss the construction of the Goldtex building. at 12th and Wood Streets, a project that had fueled considerable conflict within the labor community.
Instead, Williams told jurors he arrived to find Dougherty, who made all the conversation, while Henon sat mostly silent.
The union leader urged L&I to investigate Goldtex and potentially stop work at the site, but in the same breath, Williams said, Dougherty suddenly turned the conversation towards the Salvation Army building collapse in 2013 at 22nd and Market Street – a fatal incident that raised questions about Williams’ continued leadership of the department overseeing building construction in the city.
“He said it was a ‘real tragedy’ and the city bore some of the blame,” said Williams. âHe told me he could have me replaced. I took it as aâ¦ threat.
Williams’ account of this meeting kicked off the second week of the government’s case against Dougherty, leader of the politically powerful Section 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Henon, a former union electrician. which, according to prosecutors, allowed Dougherty to buy his vote on council in exchange for a union salary of $ 70,000 a year.
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But as the day saw testimony from two of the most senior government officials to date – Williams, who is now head of the city’s streets department under Mayor Jim Kenney, as well as Christopher Creelman, a former senior MP from the Henon Council Office. – none of the witnesses offered the prosecutors or the defense exactly what they could have hoped for.
Williams, for example, argued that despite what he viewed as Dougherty’s attempts to intimidate him in 2015, he and his staff performed their duties professionally and without favoritism.
L&I inspectors investigated the Goldtex site shortly after this meeting with Dougherty, but ultimately found his allegations of code violations to be unfounded.
And when in June of this year, Local 98 hung large banners outside its Spring Garden offices in support of the primary campaigns of Mayor Kenney and Dougherty’s brother, Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty L&I didn’t hesitate to cite them for doing it without a license, Williams mentioned.
Likewise, when Henon, also in 2015, forwarded a complaint from members of Local 98 that non-union workers were installing MRI scanners at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia without the proper permits, the order ” work stoppage “issued by L&I stemmed from the inspector’s independent findings – no pressure from Henon or anyone with the union, Williams said.
This account differed from the one presented by prosecutors last week. They cited the incident as one of many official acts Henon took on Dougherty’s behalf and alleged that Henon, who was then the board member with L&I oversight, relied on the department to arrest work at CHOP at the behest of Dougherty.
Last week, jurors heard testimony from Robert Donsky, Inspector L&I who responded to the complaint. He said he initially decided not to stop work at CHOP after concluding that contractors did not need special permits or licenses. But his decision was later overturned by his supervisor, after discussing the matter directly with Williams, Donsky said.
Assistant US Attorney Frank Costello Jr. asked Williams directly on Tuesday whether he had told his staff to issue the “stop work” order to CHOP in contradiction to Donsky’s professional assessment.
âNo, I didn’t,â Williams replied. âIt was the inspectors. â¦ They consulted me and discussed it.
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Yet, as Williams described it, Henon was one of the most prolific council members when it came to filing complaints about construction projects across town – many of them outside his home. district of northeast Philadelphia and several related to electrical work of concern to Dougherty’s union.
Between 2014 and 2015 alone, his complaints sent L&I inspectors scrambling to investigate alleged violations involving CHOP, the Goldtex building, the construction of the Westin Hotel in Center City, and the installation of LED screens at Lincoln Financial. Field.
Henon’s attorney, Brian J. McMonagle, was quick to point out, however, that in several of these cases, the L&I investigations produced results contrary to the interests of Dougherty and his union.
“Did you do your job?” McMonagle asked Williams at the end of his testimony, drawing the commissioner’s assent. “Keep doing it.”
Yet the other main witness for the day – Creelman, who worked as the Henon District Director between 2012 and 2017 – said it was unusual for the board member to be so interested in potential L&I violations outside. of his district, whereas normally these complaints would be forwarded to the colleague at the Council.
âIt was an unwritten ruleâ¦ that you didn’t fish in someone else’s pond,â he said. “You didn’t want to go to someone else’s neighborhood, because that person [complaining] I couldn’t vote for you anyway.
But that wasn’t the only thing Creelman said he found different about working for Henon.
For example, staff members were asked to use the email accounts associated with Henon’s campaign to discuss city affairs instead of their government-designated accounts – a policy, Creelman said, that Henon mistakenly believed to protect their communications from subpoenas.
He also let a Local 98 lobbyist work out of his office on council meeting days and had routine checks with Local 98 political director Marita Crawford before them.
But when prosecutors asked how often Dougherty made an appearance at Henon’s office, Creelman shrugged.
âMaybe a handful of times in five years? He ventured. “Maybe four or five times.”
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However, a series of raids in 2016 on the Henon Town Hall office and more than a dozen sites affiliated with Local 98 – the first public sign of an investigation by federal authorities – has changed dramatically. the vibe among his staff, Creelman said.
In the days that followed, staff members were invited to a “team-building exercise” at the Masonic temple opposite City Hall, in which Henon repeatedly said he didn’t had done nothing wrong.
âIt started out as a team building exercise,â Creelman said. “But it was ultimately turned away from whether we had been contacted by the FBI and if anyone had any upcoming talks.”
Creelman told jurors that Henon and his chief of staff, Courtney Voss, had constantly asked him for information in the weeks that followed as to whether investigators had reached out.
“I would tell them that I hadn’t had any meetings yet,” he said, admitting that he lied to his bosses at the time. “I didn’t want to make an uncomfortable situation any more uncomfortable.”
As to what Creelman told the FBI, Dougherty’s attorneys urged him during cross-examination to admit that he had not been able to cite a case where he allegedly saw the union leader demanding anything. it is from Henon.
In fact, defense attorney Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. asked, “You never saw Mr. Dougherty pressure Mr. Henon to do anything?”
Creelman replied, “That’s correct.”
Testimony in the case is expected to resume on Wednesday.
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