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Then-City Council Member Al Taubenberger speaks at City Hall for a ceremony to celebrate the Boy Scouts of America on Feb. 12, 2018. Jared Piper/PHLCouncil

Nick Vachon

Former Philadelphia City Councilmember Al Taubenberger maintained a 15-year-long alliance with a politician accused of sexual misconduct, which Taubenberger dismissed as ‘puppy love.’

Former Philadelphia City Councilman Al Taubenberger, a candidate running to unseat incumbent Pennsylvania state Rep. Kevin J. Boyle in the House’s 172nd District, has maintained a 15-year political relationship with a disgraced politician who was ousted for sexual misconduct.

Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., the former executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority who was elected chair of the Philadelphia Republican Party earlier this year, was forced out of the PPA after two allegations of sexual harassment were made against him in 2016.

Taubenberger, who started accepting campaign contributions from Fenerty in 2007, was on the board of the Parking Authority at that time and has since employed Fenerty’s consulting firm and taken donations from his political action committee.

In 2016, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a senior director at the Parking Authority had accused Fenerty of “a series of unwanted and repeatedly discouraged sexual advances” and “inappropriate touching” over a two-year period.

An independent investigator hired by the authority corroborated the accuser’s story and found that Fenerty had engaged in sexual harassment, but Fenerty wasn’t fired — instead, the board of the agency removed his authority to make personnel decisions and placed restrictions on his official travel, in a move that drew criticism from many in city government.

Taubenberger was one of the board members who voted to retain Fenerty as executive director. He defended the board’s decision and, according to the Inquirer, described the alleged harassment as “a high-school puppy-love situation,” a characterization he later apologized for.

Then a second instance of sexual harassment came to light.

A week after news of the first allegation broke, the Inquirer reported that Fenerty had offered to settle the case of another employee who had claimed that he’d sexually harassed her. Instead, the paper said, the employee refused the settlement, and her case against Fenerty went to mediation. The Inquirer said that the woman was “eventually fired” from the job.

A source within the parking authority told the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time that Fenerty “had a reputation for just being inappropriate with people, particularly women.”

Taubenberger told the Inquirer he was “stunned and appalled by this new revelation of an additional sexual harassment incident involving Fenerty.” Taubenberger voted, along with the other five board members, to fire Fenerty.

“Had I known about this earlier incident, I never would have voted to retain him. His actions are abhorrent and he needs to go,” Taubenberger said.

However, Taubenberger did not end his political relationship with Fenerty.

Connections between Taubenberger and Fenerty stretch back at least to 2007, when Fenerty made a $250 contribution to Taubenberger’s exploratory committee for a mayoral run, according to analysis by the American Independent Foundation.

In the following years, Fenerty donated to several of Taubenberger’s campaignsincluding his failed 2012 challenge to Boyle, his opponent then and now in the 172nd District.

In total, Fenerty had donated at least $1,100 to Taubenberger by the time he was publicly accused of sexual misconduct.

Fenerty left the parking authority on generous terms, with a payout of almost a quarter-million dollars for such items as unused vacation time; 10 years of health care coverage; and a $158,000 yearly pension. He opened a political consulting firm, Mickbud LLC, which Taubenberger’s campaign for reelection to the city council hired in 2019.

According to campaign finance documents, the firm provided $32,000 in services to Taubenberger’s campaign, which became the focus of a 2020 investigation by the Ethics Board of the City of Philadelphia. The ethics board found that his campaign had improperly reported what amounted to $3,500 monthly payments and violated campaign finance law; according to the board, Fenerty and Taubenberger had verbally agreed that in lieu of payment the campaign would accrue debt to Mickbud.

The campaign only reported the services after Election Day. Taubenberger admitted that his campaign broke the law and paid a $2,000 fine.

Since leaving the parking authority, Fenerty has continued to be active in local politics. In addition to his position as chair of the Philadelphia Republican Party, Fenerty serves as treasurer of Republican River Wards, a well-funded PAC that gave $1,000 to Taubenberger’s campaign against Boyle.

Neither Fenerty nor Taubenberger responded to a request for comment.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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