Civic News

Federal indictment details murky dealings amid Comcast’s 2015 franchise agreement

On Wednesday, Councilman Bobby Henon and union leader John Dougherty were charged with over 100 counts of fraud, embezzlement and bribery. One of the charges deals with Henon's involvement in the Comcast franchise agreement.

At the last City Council meeting of 2015, Council unanimously approved Comcast's 15-year franchise agreement with the city.

(Photo by Juliana Reyes)

Full disclosure: Comcast is the title sponsor of Philly Tech Week, which is organized by Technically Media.

On Wednesday, federal authorities announced a sweeping indictment against Philly Councilman Bobby Henon and union boss John Dougherty, charging the duo with over a hundred counts of fraud, embezzlement and bribery, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

News of the looming charges against Henon and the head of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers were first reported on Tuesday.

One of the many charges detailed by federal investigators is in the context of Comcast’s 2015 franchise agreements negotiation with the City of Philadelphia. According to the results of a multi-year probe, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Henon let Dougherty influence the agreement process.

Per the court document, Henon had his chief of staff advise a Comcast negotiator that hiring a electrical work contracting firm called MJK Electric — a Local 98 member owned by George Peltz, who has separately pled guilty on an number of charges including tax evasion — would help advance the negotiations between the media titan and local government.

On or about November 30, 2015, defendant JOHN DOUGHERTY reported to another organized labor leader in Philadelphia that he had warned defendant ROBERT HENON not to finalize the agreement with Comcast the next day, reminding HENON, “[W]ithout an agreement from me? What the h***, that doesn’t do me any good. That is why you are overthere, that is why we raised 600 grand, that is why we did the deal . . . for one reason – to putyou on public property to fight a giant.” [sic]

Henon, according to court documents, later delayed the Public Property and Public Works Committee vote so that himself and Dougherty could meet privately with Comcast negotiators at a hotel in Philadelphia, where details of MJK Electric’s subsequent employment was discussed.


Comcast has confirmed to on Wednesday that it was aware of the charges involving Henon and Dougherty. Through a spokesperson, the Philly-based media giant said it has been cooperating with the federal investigation, but only on a witness capacity.

“We have cooperated fully in the government’s investigation and will continue to cooperate as needed,” the spokesperson said in an email. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office has informed us that our only involvement in the case is as a fact witness. We can’t comment further, so any other questions should be directed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

After a year-long negotiation, the 2015 franchise agreement between Comcast and the City drastically expanded Comcast’s low-cost broadband program. At the time of its confirmation, it was championed as a win by all parties involved, including the City of Philadelphia, watchdog group Media Mobilizing Project and public access TV nonprofit PhillyCAM.

Read below the full indictment, obtained by WHYY reporter Ryan Briggs.

Doc indictment by on Scribd

Companies: Comcast
People: Bobby Henon
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