Feds: Former ZBA head embezzled from nonprofits

James Moylan, a Pennsport chiropractor and former head of Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, was indicted Tuesday by federal authorities on charges that he embezzled money from two nonprofits he organized.

The groups, known as “298” and “Neighborhoods for Fair Taxes” received nearly $50,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 job recovery fund. Much of that union’s leadership – including union boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty – was indicted today on an array of corruption charges.

Moylan, who was appointed to his position in 2016 by Local 98 ally Mayor Jim Kenney, is alleged to have then stole some $45,000 from the groups, by writing checks to his chiropractic business and, later, to himself. He spent about $4,274 on the group’s actual operations.

A federal indictment indicates that Moylan used the funds, in part, to pay down his home mortgage, office rent and miscellaneous expenses, like a pricey dinner at an Italian restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida. Authorities are also charging Moylan for falsifying his tax returns due to these clandestine payments.

The 298 group existed, ostensibly, to dispense grant money, while the Neighborhoods for Fair Taxes organization was created by Moylan to offer pushback to the city’s “Actual Valuation Initiative,” which sought to reassess property tax values citywide. Moylan stated that the group was created to advocate for “fairer tax policy in the City of Philadelphia.”

But AVI legislation was approved in June 2013 and federal authorities assert that between that date and January 2016, Moylan used the group’s remaining funds for personal gain. Kenney appointed Moylan to chair the ZBA board in February of 2016.

The move sparked widespread criticism due to Moylan’s connections to the building trades –– he had notably served as Dougherty’s personal chiropractor.

Moylan stepped down from the ZBA seven months into his tenure, several weeks after he and a string of other Local 98 officials were targeted in a series of coordinated federal raids. The statement issued by the Kenney administration when Moylan resigned positively noted his dedication to public service.

“In the spirit of Dr. Moylan's dedication to public service and his strong character, he has decided that the city cannot afford for the ongoing media focus to distract from the board's important work," the mayor’s statement said. The statement noted that the mayor believed Moylan did an exemplary job as board chairman.

Moylan had a reputation as an active leader in his neighborhood before he joined the ZBA. As president of Pennsport Civic, he played a role in creating the Central Delaware Master Plan and fought for development on the waterfront. He also negotiated a series of proposals for the former Mt. Sinai Hospital, now a residential development.

Disclosure: The Electricians Union Local 98 represents engineers at WHYY.

Moylan Indictment by on Scribd

About the author

Ryan Briggs, Data Reporter

Ryan Briggs is WHYY's data reporter.  He works on the PlanPhilly team and across the WHYY newsroom on investigative features. Before joining WHYY, he covered politics, criminal justice and government policy since 2011. He has worked as a staff reporter for Next City, the Philadelphia City Paper, and City & State PA, while contributing stories to a variety of other news outlets as a freelancer, including WHYY.

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