MAYORTAP: FBI Sent Wiretap Notice to Mayor Kenney


Mayor’s voice is on the audio recordings

Not mentioned early today in the Inquirer’s story of wiretaps at IBEW Local 98 is that Mayor Kenney was among the folks who were captured in the recordings.

There’s multiple things that can be deduced from the FBI’s actions.

FBI target letters are normally sent out late in an investigation as it’s wrapping up.  Over a month ago I had written that several prominent Democrat ward leaders and Councilman Bobby Henon had received target letters from the FBI.

Wiretap notices are sent out even later.   This gives potential defendants clear warning that the government has recordings it intends to use.  Both the device owner and key individuals critical to the prosecution are given notices; gives everyone the opportunity to scramble for lawyers, if they haven’t already done so.

For wiretap letters to come out now, one must presume that the FBI is mostly finished transcribing the intercepts it’s interested in using in a prosecution.   If you’re looking for a comparable, there’s one fairly close to home: the city of Allentown.   The FBI is pursuing a corruption probe there.  Wiretap notices were sent out in May of last year.  Prosecutions were likely to have been wrapped up by September but by the end of the fall two key prosecutors working on the case dropped out.  One of them was Joe Khan who later ran for District Attorney of Philadelphia.

Included with the evidence beyond just taped conversations and e-mail intercepts are a huge mountain of financial records that the FBI netted last year which requires parsing by forensic accountants.

Mayor Kenney Could Be a Witness

For the FBI to notify the mayor that he’s been recorded in all his dealings over 18 months with IBEW business manager John Dougherty it’s likely led to a solemn and reflective mayor.   As in.. “wtf did I tell that guy on the phone?

Listening to a Philly mayor’s telephone conversations out in public is not something that’s new.  Kenney was a city councilman when FBI recordings featuring former mayor John Street talking to his wife were replayed for an audience of millions on KYW.  And if the recordings are used in a prosecution we may get to hear what our mayor sounds like when he thinks no one is listening, and with one of the more interesting people Kenney talks to regularly–Dougherty.

One clue to how rooted Kenney still is with the electrician’s union is easy to see in a few of his appointment picks.  For the Zoning Board of Adjustment he picked John Dougherty’s chiropractor–who later had to bow out after his home was raided by the FBI.

Another was Kenney’s strong push for the Soda Tax.   The Soda Tax wasn’t so much Kenney’s idea as it was a launchpad for contracting using the secondary promise the Soda Tax brings:  Rebuild–the multi-million dollar building refurbishment program which promises to keep all the building trades busy for the next five years as the city uses the promise of tax revenue to secure bonds.  As far as priorities go, Pre-K is used to mollify the voters while the real puddin’ is the Rebuild program City Council just passed.

In order to make Rebuild happen and not slash spending elsewhere in the City budget or fight with AFSCME like Mayor Nutter used to do, a Soda Tax was needed to pay for it.

Dougherty strong-armed city council and made frequent personal appearances in the Second French Empire building to ensure the tax passed.  Doc’s deep involvement in lobbying for the Soda Tax over the loud objections from the Teamsters union (who work in the bottling logistics that deliver soda to retailers) hints that Doc had pre-planned the tax before Kenney even became mayor.

The period the FBI had started recording Dougherty begin in April 2015, right before the Democratic primary when hizzoner was running for his job.   The recording continued all the way to the point where the Soda Tax was passed by City Council.   During the last stages of getting the Soda Tax legislation passed was when Doc was the most assertive and strong-arming members of City Council.   Earlier on when Kenney was in election mode, Doc was busy organizing dark money to help get Kenney elected.

Since the FBI raid Doc has gone back to backroom conversations and tête à têtes at the Jersey shore, waiting for an indictment to drop.

And now we’ll also have tapes!

(photo: WHYY)