For Immediate Release - June 27, 2005

Former Salem Police Captain Paul R. Murphy Pays $6,000 Civil Penalty for Conflict of Interest law Violations

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission concluded public proceedings against former Salem Police Captain Paul R. Murphy by approving a Disposition Agreement in which Murphy admitted violating the state's conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by intervening in matters involving his daughter Patricia, also a former Salem police officer. Murphy paid a civil penalty of $6,000.

According to the Disposition Agreement, Murphy, who was terminated as a Salem police officer in September 2003 and is appealing the termination with the Civil Service Commission, was second in command after the Chief. Patricia was first a reserve officer and then a permanent patrol officer until her termination in June 2004. She, too, is appealing the termination.

Murphy violated § 19 of the conflict of interest law in 2000 by:

  • asking Lt. Mary Butler to obtain medical information that would allow Patricia to attend the police academy in summer 2000;
  • communicating concerns to Lt. Butler and the Chief when Patricia was not allowed to attend the academy; and
  • asking Lt. Butler and the Chief to make an exemption for Patricia that would allow her to attend.

Murphy also violated § 19 in 2001 by asking the Chief to defer the decision to appoint three full-time permanent officers until after Patricia attended the spring 2001 police academy in order to maintain Patricia's seniority over the another appointee, who had previously completed the academy. Finally, Murphy violated § 23(b)(2) in 2002 by obtaining confidential information about a sexual harassment complaint Patricia filed and using it in an attempt to demonstrate to the Chief that Lt. Butler, who served as the department's sexual harassment officer and reviewed Patricia's complaint, was biased against Patricia.

Section 19 of the conflict of interest law generally prohibits a public employee from officially participating in matters in which an immediate family member has a financial interest. Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict law prohibits a public employee from using or attempting to use his position to obtain for himself or others an unwarranted privilege of substantial value.

"While the conflict of interest law doesn't prohibit family members from serving in the same police department, it does create bright lines prohibiting senior police officers from being involved officially with subordinate family members' careers unless the appropriate disclosures are made and permission to participate is secured," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "In this case, there was a pattern of failure to recognize the clear and common-sense boundaries embodied in the law."