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Former police captain admits to ethics violations



By Tom Dalton
Staff writer




SALEM — Former Salem police Capt. Paul Murphy has admitted violating state conflict-of-interest laws when he interfered in department business involving his police officer daughter.

He agreed to pay a $6,000 fine, the maximum amount for the three violations cited, according to the State Ethics Commission.

The tentative settlement, which was filed yesterday, was reached Wednesday just as the commission was to set to begin a hearing in the case. The settlement goes before the five-member state board on May 5 for approval.

Attorney Thomas Barrett of Salem, Murphy's lawyer, said his client accepted the deal because, "We felt it was the best way to resolve this matter without a hearing." He declined to comment further and said Murphy also would not comment because the matter is still pending before the Ethics Commission.

Salem police Chief Robert St. Pierre, who brought the charges more than two years ago, made only a brief statement when reached last night.

"I don't think I should comment until it is final," he said.

This settlement agreement appears to end a bitter, four-year dispute within the Police Department that involved charges, counter-charges, investigations and a city hearing.

Murphy's violations all revolved around his daughter, former Patrolwoman Patricia Murphy, and occurred between 2000 and 2002, according to the Ethics Commission. He admitted wrongdoing in three of the five incidents cited by the commission.

In one instance, Murphy admitted violating conflict of interest laws when he went into the private files of Lt. Mary Butler, who was handling a sexual harassment complaint Patricia Murphy brought against two superior officers.

Butler, the department's sexual harassment officer, substantiated the facts in the complaint but did not find that it rose to the level of sexual harassment.

Murphy, a former second in command for the department, used his master key to get into Butler's office to try to "uncover any evidence that the lieutenant was biased against Patricia," the eight-page agreement states. He also hand-copied a document in the file which he felt supported his claim.

The 29-year veteran also admitted using improper influence to try to get his daughter, at the time a reserve officer, into a Police Academy class. Believing that she would be enrolled in the July 2000 class, Patricia Murphy had quit her job only to be told that she lacked required medical records.

Paul Murphy, who was acting chief at the time, complained to Butler, who was handling the matter, and also called St. Pierre, who was on vacation in Maine. Both St. Pierre and Butler said they believed Murphy was trying to get them to make an exception for his daughter, according to the report.

Murphy said he didn't recall telephoning the chief, but department records show that two calls were placed to the chief's vacation home, according to the Ethics Commission report.

State ethics laws prohibit a city employee from getting involved in a matter where a family member has a financial interest.

Murphy also admitted lobbying the chief to delay a reserve officer's appointment to full-time duty because he felt that his daughter, who had longer reserve service and a higher ranking on the Civil Service list, should be appointed first. By his actions, Murphy got involved in a matter where his daughter stood to benefit, the commission stated. Police overtime, details, shift bidding and layoffs are all determined by seniority.

The Ethics Commission dropped two charges pertaining to a vacation dispute and a cruiser accident involving Patricia Murphy.

The stage agency began its investigation in November 2003 and found reasonable cause that Murphy violated state conflict-of-interest laws this past August. The hearing was scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

Murphy was fired by Mayor Stanley Usovicz in 2003. At the same time, he filed for retirement and is receiving a city pension. Being fired, unless on a criminal charge, does not disqualify a city employee from getting a pension, according to the city's retirement board.

Patricia Murphy, who was a reserve officer for five years and hired full time in 2001, was fired in 2004. Appeals of both firings are pending before the state Civil Service Commission.
 
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