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So the big political news this week is that Eileen Donoghue is declining to put in her resume for the City Manager position, which, insiders say, means sitting state Rep Kevin Murphy is now a shoo-in.
I cannot count all the ways that this pisses me right the hell off. This is Lowell at its absolute and utter worst. Let’s elaborate why.
First of all, supposedly, a dozen applications or so have been received so far (why has that gone public, anyway?), with another two weeks til deadline. What if we get another Lynch in the pile? Someone who is just an outstanding candidate, who nails the interview, who comes in knowing all sorts of things a city manager ought to know, like about Dept of Revenue audit letters that are being ignored, and someone who could continue this upward spiral of higher Moody’s ratings (saving taxpayer dollars), green energy and conservation (saving taxpayer dollars), continuing and building on efficiency programs (saving taxpayer dollars), and transparent, readable budgets (showing taxpayers where their money is going)? Screw “from Lowell for Lowell.” I want “protect the Lowell taxpayer and residents” not a goddamned street address and birth certificate that has Lowell at the end of it.
Second: all this bullshit talk about Donoghue or Murphy are basically the only choices the Council will consider. It’s a great way to limit the candidate pool of people willing to bother, precluding a stellar candidate from even putting an application in. Maybe that’s what Elliott, Kennedy, Belanger, Rourke, Leahy and Mercier really want, but then please stop pretending this farce of a sham of an advertised position constitutes a “nationwide search.” Seriously, do these people think that the taxpayer wants a limited candidate pool? Come on.
Third: KEVIN MURPHY IS NOT QUALIFIED. Are you all freaking nuts? I don’t care if his teeth gleam white and shiny and you like him a lot. That is not how to pick the top administrator of the city. He. Is. NOT. Qualified. And the fact that he thinks he is?? Even worse.
He said on the radio something to the effect of, “I could do the job, I ran a small business.” (A law firm consisting of him and his own family member isn’t even really that!) It took a lot of willpower not to bite my own arm off. Being a small business (or indeed, any sort of business owner), or a lawmaker (who is pretty much useless, riding on the coattails of first Panagiotakos and now, Donoghue) is NOT a qualification for running a city. OMFG.
It is NOT a political job.
It should not treated like a political job.
It is a serious, VERY tough, VERY involved management position not unlike being a CEO of a large company, but with really specific and specialized matters to attend, like union negotiations. Speaking of that, here’s how Kevin Murphy is the WORST candidate for this position…
You see, the City Manager acts on behalf of the city taxpayer in union negotiations. So, when there’s a table, and unions are sitting on one side, and the city itself is on the other, the CM is in charge of our half of the process.
Key word here is: Ne-go-ti-a-tion. Not “give the unions what they want” but “give the unions what taxpayers can afford.” Now, I’m all for taking a look at the union contracts, and making sure that our city workers are fairly compensated. But state money has been a little tough to come by these days, and the City Council refuses to let the City Manager raise the tax rates even an eensy-bit to allow for more capital investments, more police positions, or city worker raises.
You copy, unions? You wanna blame someone, blame the Council for that. I don’t see this Council getting any better on that front, not with Rodney “Across-The-Board-Cuts” Elliott as mayor. They have literally hog-tied the Manager’s hands for years on taxes and revenues, such that, despite the fact our budgets have been doing better and better, there’s not a lot of room to accommodate new spending, either in raises or in “stuff.” We’re lucky to have had the capital investments we’ve had (thanks in part to those ratings agencies giving Lowell the increased thumbs-up).
But, Mr. Kevin Murphy…well. A good lot of his clients are unions or city workers.
His representation of union clients and, perhaps more controversially, of his wife in contract negotiations with the city of Lowell, has raised questions about whether it is appropriate for a lawmaker to vote on funding for public agencies at the same time he is serving clients fighting for a piece of that funding.
Murphy’s roster of clients in his Chelmsford law practice includes a number of public-sector entities, from the Lowell Housing Authority to the Dracut School Committee.
The most controversial, however, was his decision last fall to represent Lowell’s four assistant school superintendents, including his wife, Ann Murphy.
Murphy successfully renegotiated the superintendents’ contracts and in the process secured his wife a $10,000 raise — the largest of the four — two years before her contract was set to expire.
The taint of the Lowell School Department episode followed Murphy when, earlier this year, contract negotiations between management and the bus drivers for the Lowell Regional Transit Authority grew contentious and appeared headed toward a strike vote.
Murphy represents the bus drivers’ union, which is still at an impasse in contract talks.
Now, that was in 2009, and Murphy brushed off these gray areas in state ethics laws as inconsequential, since he was a state Rep and these were local or regional matters.
Those cozy relationships, even if he leaves his law office (which his own nephew Brian Akashian will take over…License Commissioner and we’ve written about him), do not make me think he’ll be the best we can do for representing the taxpayer on local union negotiations. And then, there’s the utter insanity that nearly the entire Kevin Murphy family tree is working in the Lowell Schools. It’s so bad, he made a joke out of it at the 2010 St. Patrick’s Day breakfast.
State Rep. Kevin Murphy wanted to make sure Superintendent of School Chris Scott was clear that it was Rep. Charley Murphy of Burlington, not him who has proposed cutting state aid for education.
“So, don’t take it out on my wife, my sister, my sister-in-law, my other sister-in-law, my cousin, my cousin-in-law or my niece,” he said. “The Lowell Public Schools — or as we call them the Murphy family business.”
And this guy would, if he became City Manager, be putting together the city’s side of the budget for the Lowell School Dept? Really?? Can you count all the ways that would be ethically questionable?
I could go on quite at length the ways the conflicts of interest make him the worst candidate for this job. I’m actually beginning to wonder if he’d drag the city down quicker than John Cox did. You know, the last guy we hired who was a former state Rep with ethics problems. How long before Murphy would unravel all the good Bernie Lynch did for the city? Whether it’s through inexperience, or graft and abuse, the result is the same. How long before we eat through our own free cash…before city departments go back to the bad old days of workers doing side work for the connected or sleeping on the job on the taxpayer’s dime…which took Bernie so long to clean out? (Not that that cleaning job is completely finished.)
Aren’t we tired of this? Aren’t we ready to keep doing business for ALL of Lowell, all its residents, the connected and the unconnected alike? I know I can’t expect any better from Elliott, Belanger, Kennedy, or Rourke, but I think Rita Mercier and John Leahy could be heroes in this. If only they’d think this through, and look for the best qualified person, instead of going with the guy (they think) they know.
As for the end of this Column piece:
Assuming he goes so far as to get an interview, ha, ha, Murphy said: “I will convince any opponents that I am not the boogeyman that some people think I am.” He also insisted he does not have an “anger problem” as he’s heard some detractors say. Murphy said his work and political experience at City Hall, at the State House and as a small businessman, have provided him with the skills to be an effective city manager.
Notwithstanding that I do think he has major ethics problems…when are city leaders going to understand, it’s not about being against anyone! It’s about wanting the best candidate for the job, period, and Muphy can’t possibly be that person with the resume and experience he has. To believe he has the relevant experience is totally arrogant. Apparently Kevin Murphy is that arrogant.
Murphy vehemently denied padding his pension is one of the sole reasons he wants the job. “I’m a Lowell guy who has lived in the same neighborhood my entire life,” Murphy said. “I truly believe that serving as city manager is the best way to help the city and its people.”
No, no, no, NO! The best way to help the city and its people is to find the best municipally experienced manager for the position. Hell, Rep. Murphy isn’t really that great as a state Rep in “serving the people.” If you don’t believe me, take a look at the list of legislation coming out of his office this session, on his official state page (8 bills), compared to, say, Lunenburg’s Jen Benson (26 bills) or Marblehead’s Lori Ehrlich (21 bills).
But regardless of how good of a state Rep he might or might not be, and his obvious conflicts of interest, he simply will NOT in all likelihood be the best and most qualified person who applies for the position of Lowell’s City Manager. Anyone who claims otherwise is utterly deluded.
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