When John Dougherty’s niece in 2015 needed help paying for a college trip to play basketball in Costa Rica, the union chief called up his friend Jim Kenney to lament his role as a provider to many.
“There’s things I pay for people around me every week,” Dougherty said. “As much money as I make … I should have more money than I know. But I don’t got it.”
He told Kenney, who with help from Dougherty’s union that spring had clinched the Democratic nomination to become the city’s next mayor, about his niece’s struggles to fund her travel plans.
“Well, who they gonna go to?” Dougherty asked. “They’re gonna come to me.”
Jurors heard a recording of that 2015 conversation Monday as Dougherty’s trial on charges he and others embezzled more than $600,000 from their union entered a third week.
And while Dougherty has painted himself throughout the proceedings as unstinting when it came to providing for family and those he held close, prosecutors sought to puncture that image by showing his largesse often came at the expense of the union he led for nearly 30 years.
In the end, it was Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers that ended up footing the bill to send Dougherty’s niece, Maureen T. Fiocca, and a friend on their Central American basketball trip in 2015 — a cost of nearly $4,000 from the union’s job recovery fund, a pot of money meant to fund projects aimed at improving the union’s labor share in the job market.
Fiocca testified last week that she didn’t know who ultimately ended up funding the trip.
But her travel companion, Adrianna Crenny, told jurors Monday that she had a pretty good idea even at the time.
“I know Maureen’s family paid for it,” she said. “They said they were going to pay for it.”
Dougherty was equally generous, other witnesses testified, when it came to indulging one of his father, John Sr.’s, favorite pastimes — betting on horse races.
He took his dad to watch American Pharoah clinch the Triple Crown at the 2015 Belmont Stakes in upstate New York with a crew that included the union’s then-political director Marita Crawford, with whom Dougherty has acknowledged he was having an affair at the time.
Local 98 ended up paying for most of their meals that weekend, including tabs for $555 and $473 on back-to-back nights at the same Italian restaurant — dinners Dougherty later described as “political meetings” on the expense report he filed with the union, according to documents shown to jurors Monday.
Robert Gormley, a Local 98 business agent, told the jury that a month later, he accompanied Crawford and Dougherty’s father to a horse betting tournament at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
And after placing a few bets on the union chief’s behalf, treated them both to a $118 dinner which he later expensed — at Dougherty’s urging — as a “political strategy dinner meeting with Marita and 1 other.”
“BUY a GOOD dinner for everyone,” Dougherty texted Gormley shortly before. “Wolf Gang etc.” — an apparent reference to the restaurant celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck used to operate inside the hotel.
But while prosecutors sought Monday to characterize those meals as clear personal expenses and misuses of Local 98 funds, Gormley insisted that the line wasn’t always so clear.
“It was pleasure, and it was business,” he said. “It was dual.”
Gormley acknowledged his primary purpose for heading to Atlantic City that weekend was to “handicap the races,” but he insisted that he and Crawford had discussed Local 98′s political strategy over dinner that evening.
That summer, the business agent said, the union had just come out of one of its busiest — and most successful — election seasons ever. Union money and manpower helped secure 2015 Democratic nominations for Kenney, as mayor, and Dougherty’s brother, Kevin, for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in the primaries that spring.
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Meetings to discuss the union’s next political moves often happened around other planned personal events.
“Those conversations needed to happen,” Gormley said.
Gormley’s description mirrored the argument that Dougherty’s lawyers have pushed throughout the trial: that the union chief was always working even while attending personal functions with family and friends. Sorting out which of Dougherty’s expenses are personal and which were business, they’ve argued, isn’t as clear-cut as prosecutors might want to make it seem.
Even personal gestures at times had business ramifications, defense lawyer Henry M. George suggested in his questioning Monday about the 2015 Costa Rica basketball trip.
At the time of the trip, Dougherty’s niece Fiocca was attending Arcadia University in Glenside, and Local 98 was in the process of expanding its reach into Montgomery County.
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It’s possible, the lawyer suggested, that the money Dougherty had the union spend to send her to Costa Rica was also meant to forge a relationship with Arcadia.
The union, George said, has done work at the university since then.
But prosecutors sought to cut through those explanations.
They noted months after American Pharoah’s Belmont win, Crawford and Dougherty’s father returned to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to see the horse in another race. Though Dougherty didn’t attend, he encouraged Crawford, in phone records shown to jurors, to “get in some place good” for dinner.
“Use the card,” he told her. “You hear me?”
During that trip, Crawford rang up a $588 dinner tab for herself, John Dougherty Sr., and others which she charged to her Local 98 American Express — later justifying the expense as a political dinner.
But when Gormley described another $118 dinner during an upstate New York horse racing trip with Crawford and Dougherty’s father as a necessary business expense, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Costello bristled.
“You didn’t need to go to Belmont to have that meeting,” the prosecutor said. “You could have had that same conversation in Philadelphia.”