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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon turned himself in on Thursday morning after being charged in a 116-count federal indictment involving IBEW Local 98 union leader John Dougherty and six other union members. During a court hearing in the afternoon, Henon pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges.
Henon’s lawyer, Brian McMonagle, made arrangements for Henon to turn himself in a day early. Henon was not at Thursday’s City Council meeting as he was arraigned at 1:30 p.m.
Henon’s communications director told Eyewitness News in a statement that the councilman was granted a leave of absence at today’s City Council session to attend an arraignment.
“The leave of absence was granted by City Council President Darrell Clarke pursuant to council rules,” the statement reads.
Just ahead of today’s meeting, Clarke said Henon should’ve been at City Hall.
“I believe he should be,” said Clarke.
Henon was named in a bombshell indictment that was released Wednesday following the U.S. government’s years-long embezzlement, bribery and theft investigation.
Court documents show Dougherty and the other named Local 98 members used union funds to buy themselves and others everything from big screen televisions to baby food.
“Union leaders and public officials are held to similar standards, both are required to act in the best interest of others. When they violate that duty in order to enrich themselves it’s a federal crime. When they conspire to do so together it’s also a federal crime,” said First Assistant United States Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania Jennifer Arbittier Williams.
On top of Henon’s six-digit councilman salary, prosecutors say Henon was also paid a $70,000 union salary to represent Dougherty’s interests at City Hall.
“Bobby Henon was never bribed,” said McMonagle.
McMonagle insists the union salary is because Henon still worked for the union, just as every councilmember has another job outside City Hall.
“This never had anything to do with money,” said McMonagle. “This had to do with loyalty to a brotherhood he’s a member of.”
The indictment allegedly shows how Dougherty used Henon to help him get the city to bend to his will.
At one point, feds alleged Henon stopped work at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia because it was a non-union site, after Dougherty asked him to.
“In essence, the indictment alleges Henon abdicated his duty to provide honest services to the citizens of Philadelphia, because he made decision on behalf of John Dougherty, rather than the people who elected him to city council,” Williams said.
McMonagle argues Henon represents every union member in Philadelphia.
“He ran for City Council as a union member to go out and protect union members across this city and that’s what he’s been doing since the day he got elected,” said McMonagle.
Henon has denied any wrongdoing.
“I have done nothing wrong. I have spent 28 years proudly working for Local 98. In 2011, I ran for City Council to give a voice to honest union men and women, working Philadelphians and those in need of a strong voice to represent them in this great city,” Henon said in a statement on Wednesday.