PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Nearly six weeks after federal agents carried out a series of raids across the region, the man caught in the middle of the investigation opens up – only to Eyewitness News.
This is the first in-depth interview for union boss John Dougherty. He’s talking about his family, his city and how he will always be there for the men and women of Local 98.
He’s known simply as Johnny Doc, and he granted the interview with the understanding that he could not discuss specifics of the investigation.
That said, he did shed light on how he felt the day the government came knocking… a second time.
“Look, I got completely caught off guard. I didn’t see this coming,” John Dougherty said, reacting to the raids by the FBI.
“I still don’t know why it happened.”
But it did. The key sites including his home, the electricians union headquarters and the City Hall office of his friend and protege, City Councilman Bobby Henon.
“The crime tape around the house and around the union hall, a little excessive. The by line on the news articles, if you know anything about this guy, a little excessive,” Dougherty said.
So, what should we know about this guy?
Well, he runs the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 and he heads the 40,000 worker Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council. He has long been a powerful and political force in the city.
“When you make a reference to powerful and political, I say effective and just not in politics. We’re effective in the community. We’re effective in churches, effective in sports programs.”
And Dougherty told me his South Philly upbringing was the foundation for his ascension. He was raised by his parents in a hard working, strict, faith based Catholic family along with his brother Kevin and sister Maureen.
“My father worked for the city, never made $32,000 in his whole life. My mom never worked til it came time to send me to the Prep.”
After St. Joe’s Prep, he furthered his education at La Salle University. Dougherty makes it a point to help local charities, disabled and sick children and their families. His hustle and desire to succeed for the working man and woman he says was partly born on this playground at 2nd and Jackson.
He’s a major Philly sports fan by the way. Always has been. His motto? The best way to know where you’ve come from is to never leave. “I say it all the time. I live in a row home, five minutes from where I grew up at,” Dougherty said.
But, does the recent activity, in and around that home, cloud his vision? “I’m not happy about it. Ok, I’m frustrated by it. I’m concerned by it, but I’m not running from it.”
And he told me why.
“Local 98 has hired the best, the brightest for years. We have quarterly financial reviews. We have monthly membership approvals of everything we do. We have a compliance program that we report everything in a timely and transparent manner. The last time, o.k. the last time, ten years ago (Ukee Washington: this is the second time in ten years) Well this is the second time it could be the third, fourth or fifth time, it don’t matter, but they got a job to do and I understand that and I respect that,” Dougherty said.
When your critics say the power and prominence comes through bullying and intimidation, what do you say to your critics?
“I don’t believe I’m a bully. I believe I’m effective. I play the tools. I don’t break any laws. I have all these professionals around me. You’d be shocked. Before we have any formal economic protest for wage, or a stand, I bounce it off three sets of attorneys. That’s the world we live in,” Dougherty explained.
From the outside, looking in, it appears Johnny Doc’s world could possibly be turned upside down, but he’s not going for it. He says he will continue to help the community and during any down time, do many of the things he’s always loved to do.
“I’ve been trying to play the guitar for 15 years. I’m not any good at that,” Dougherty said.
But, he’s very good at taking walks for peace of mind, especially to the Irish Memorial. He’s made it known his next term will be his last.
So John, when this is said and done, how does it end?
“The facts are, if this is about me, then make it about me. The fact that people around me are being brought into this, that breaks my heart. I’ve been audited. I’ve been reviewed. I’ve been investigated in the past and all through this, recommendations have been made. I always change with the recommendations. We are part of the fabric of Philadelphia. We love Philly. I love Philly. Hey, look, it’s an awkward time, o.k., but we’ll get through.”