COMMENTARY: Hobbs city commissioners must vote against any transition, any modified severance, any consulting agreement or any employment extension for City Manager John J. “J.J.” Murphy before his contract’s end date, which is presumed to be Aug. 23. I urge them to let the contract expire, and you should urge them, too.
I wrote in an April 20, 2016, opinion editorial that appeared on NMPolitics.net, “For all the free-wheeled spending Murphy has either gotten away with or attempted, why not just terminate Murphy’s employment and pay him his severance now?”
If the commission had listened to me and terminated his contract that next month, Murphy would only be a memory, because the year’s worth of salary and benefits that are listed in the severance of his current contract would all be paid off by now. But no.
Last October, the commission considered a “transition” contract for Murphy. Mayor Sam Cobb made a hard sell for the proposed contract, which would transition Murphy to a “special consultant to the Mayor and City Commission through July 2nd, 2018,” he wrote in the Oct. 2, 2016, edition of the Hobbs News-Sun. He said the agreement would “benefit all stakeholders, including the residents of Hobbs.”
More than once, I’ve read the News-Sun’s claim that there would have been about $100,000 in cost savings if the city commission had agreed to the proposed transition contract last October. Be that as it may, I thank the commission for rejecting the proposal, and I implore commissioners to reject any new proposal. No amount of “savings” is worth Murphy being involved with Hobbs city government another year.
If a new proposal to make him a “special consultant” is in the works, the public will not learn the details until one business day before the Aug. 7 commission meeting. That leaves no time for the public to debate in a public forum what the commission should do. In case a one-year “special consultant” proposal is what’s coming, I think it’s at least valuable to review last October’s proposal for clues:
- The city would continue to pay Murphy’s more than $180,000 salary, as well as his $750-per-month car allowance, his short-term disability insurance premiums, and his health insurance premiums for him and up to six dependents. A consultant! Hello!? And he doesn’t even have to be in City Hall. How “special” can one consultant be? We’ll just be paying him to look for a new job, which is what we’ve already been doing for the last three years.
- Murphy would be “compensated for all PTO accrued… as well as all paid holidays and military leave.” The city’s past auditing firm questioned Murphy’s PTO accounting and the resulting PTO payouts. And since his cover letter for the Treasure Island, Fla., city manager position says, “I am set to retire in June 2017,” I’m figuring compensation for military leave should be a nonissue.
- The city would “pay all reasonable litigation expenses of Murphy throughout the pendency of any litigation to which Murphy is a party, witness or advisor to the City.” So long as a lawsuit is not between Murphy and the city, Murphy “shall be compensated his current hourly rate at up to eight hours per day.”
- The last slap in the face is that Murphy and the city would “release any claims that they may have against one another for events occurring prior to the Effective Date.” Essentially, “Give me what I want, or else I’ll sue.”
Last October, when Mayor Cobb pitched Murphy’s last proposed transition agreement, he said “all stakeholders” would benefit. If the latest version of a proposed transition contract looks much like the last, the benefit is Murphy’s alone.
Hobbs voters want their commissioners to protect their interests, not the city manager’s. In July 2015, I chronicled here on NMPolitics.net the amendments of Murphy’s employment contract, which evolved as his sense of entitlement grew, but only in proportion to our commissioners’ inability to say “no.” Since 2015, more than a dozen city councils have rejected Murphy for city manager jobs, and yet Murphy’s greed and self-importance are unabashed; he still thinks he deserves benefits that no Hobbs taxpayers would ever receive if they were terminated from their jobs.
Let his contract run out. Hobbs has been bled enough. Hobbs voters are following this issue closely, and recall petitions are waiting in the wings for the commissioners who vote for the city manager’s interests, rather than for the voters’ interests.
Jeanie Coates is a Hobbs resident and conservative activist focusing on property rights, government accountability, election integrity and government transparency. Agree with her opinion? Disagree? We welcome your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.