By CBS3 Staff

PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — The U.S. Department of Labor has accused the leaders of a powerful Philadelphia electricians union of intimidating challengers so they could run unopposed in last year’s board elections.

The lawsuit, announced Friday, takes aim at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 and business manager John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty. He and five others are set to go on trial in March on charges they stole more than $600,000 in union funds.

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The Labor Department now wants to void the election and force a new one. According to the lawsuit, Dougherty warned one potential challenger it would be “a long three years” if he lost. Lawyers representing the union did not immediately return a call for comment.

Dougherty has led the 5,000-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 since 1993 and more recently took the helm of the city’s Building Trades Council, with 70,000 members. He has steered $30 million raised by the local electricians union to mostly Democratic candidates in the last decade alone.

An IBEW Local 98 spokesperson wrote in a statement, “The same guy who paid for and is responsible for an anonymous, malicious, sexually harassing website that exists solely to smear John Dougherty, other Local 98 officers and, worse, our family members, is the one behind this lawsuit. This individual publicly stated three times before union members that he was not running for a union office and gave three different reasons why. This is his M.O. – when things don’t go his way, run to the government. John and the other duly-elected Local 98 officers want to have an election and look forward to their day in court. The union has never been stronger than it is currently, which is the reason no one ran against the incumbent team. It’s interesting, too, that this lawsuit by Trump’s Department Of Labor with a big assist from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, comes one day after President-Elect Biden nominated Marty Walsh for Secretary of Labor – a former union leader who understands how union elections work.”

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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