Thursday, August 15, 2019

Board Of Elections Tanks One For Johnny Doc

By Ralph Cipriano

He's under federal indictment and the most likely candidate to continue Philadelphia's proud tradition of sending its top political bosses to jail  for corruption.

But today, John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty is smiling because the city's Board of Elections just did him a solid.

The "corrupt and contented" Board of Elections decided who cares if the company that sells the most expensive -- and allegedly the most easily hacked voting machines out there -- broke city law by failing to disclose that it had hired lobbyists to help land a $29 million contract with the city? And who cares if those same lobbyists were writing undisclosed campaign checks to a couple of elections commissioners who apparently were in the tank big time for the winning bidder?

In Philadelphia, a shady deal is still a deal, the board of elections decided today, even though it features the same cast of characters and the same modus operandi of the 116-count federal indictment that currently stars Johnny Doc, the city's most powerful union leader and most generous political benefactor, and his hand-picked City Councilman, Bobby Henon. He's the guy still on Johnny Doc's payroll, the guy who put through the best value procurement initiative that gave us the ExpressVote XL, the voting machines that union leaders like Johnny Doc love, because it's union guys who are getting paid to tend to those expensive machines.

To ratify a deal that smells pretty ripe at this point the hacks on the Elections Board had to ignore City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, who stopped by today to personally ask the board to wait just "a few short weeks" until her ongoing investigation of the voting machines deal was complete, so the board could make a "fully informed decision."

It was Rhynhart who discovered the undisclosed lobbyists and their undisclosed contributions to the city commissioners. It was Rhynhart who described those failures to disclose as "a small part of what my team has been looking at."

Earlier this year, the controller's office served two batches of subpoenas on city officials to look into the procurement process behind the voting machines purchase, which thanks to Johnny Doc and Bobby Henon's best value procurement initiative, was buried under a blanket of secrecy.

In the voting machines procurement process, the identity of the officials who reviewed the prospective bids was not disclosed; neither were their recommendations or findings that would explain why they bypassed several lower bidders.

The city, however, only got around to obeying those subpoenas from the controller during the last week of August. So it's going to take some time to dig through all that material and assemble a full report on a deal that the controller has repeatedly stated she wants to block because she was "deeply concerned about the legality of this process."

It's a process that appeared slanted to favor the eventual winner, Election Systems and Software LLC, or ES&S, the manufacturer of the ExpressVote XL.

But the hacks on the Elections Board couldn't wait a few weeks. They were hot to do Johnny Doc's bidding right now.

"I do not believe that this process should be overturned," declared Judge Giovanni Campbell, one of two elections commissioners appointed to replace Al Schmidt and Lisa Deeley on the board, the two elections commissioners running for reelection who were taking money from ES&S lobbyists.

"My vote is to maintain the contract," agreed the other appointed elections commissioner, Judge Vincent Furlong.

The only other incumbent elections commissioner in the room, Anthony Clark, who is retiring, remained silent. Or if he did try to say something, he might have been drowned out by the boos and catcalls from the audience, who were chanting without success, "Vote your conscience."

The funniest moment of the afternoon came when Alan C. Kessler, a lawyer who's a partner in Duane Morris LLP, one of ES&S's undisclosed lobbyists, told the board that ES&S's failure to disclose "wasn't intentional" and a "classic case of no harm, no foul."

Well not exactly. ES&S will have to pay a fine of $2.9 million, a penalty that a company spokesperson has already said ES&S will pay.

In voting to uphold Johnny Doc's corrupt hold over Mayor Jim Kenney's "progressive" administration, the Board of Elections today had to ignore the voices of a few of their own.

A Democratic committee person who told the board about the voting machines deal, "It stinks," and that the city had become "a national embarrassment." And a judge of elections who also wanted the deal voided, out of concerns that the new machines could easily be hacked.

After the meeting, Rhynhart told reporters she'd be back in a couple of weeks when her investigation is over, to discuss her findings with the board, and once again ask them to reconsider their vote.

It's Johnny Doc's electricians union, and other local unions, that will end up as chief beneficiaries of the voting machines purchase, because union members will be getting paid to transport, service, repair and maintain the nearly 300-pound machines that the city has bought.

In a letter to the Board of Elections, Procurement Commissioner Monique Nesmith-Joyner said that ES&S has already delivered to the city more than 3,200 voting machines. The city has also entered into a one-year lease for a climate-controlled warehouse to house the new voting machines that will cost $777,000. The city has also spent more than $87,000 to rent and purchase vehicles to transport the machines between city facilities, Nesmith-Joyner wrote.

The morale of the story in a town that's been ruled by the same openly corrupt political party for 67 years: It's hard to stop the gravy train once it's rolling. Fat contracts for a favored bidder; and lots of jobs for union workers riding that gravy train, who will all be voting Democratic.

Who needs to wait for what further revelations may emerge from the controller's subpoenas?

Transparency be damned! The gravy train rolls on.


  1. Welcome to Philly!

  2. Where I grew up in Cumberland County,we referred to eastern PA as Filthydelphia. And that was 55 years ago!


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