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May 23, 2014

CM Murphy Outmaneuvered On His Own Bill

by at 6:52 pm.

It’s like watching ping pong, only at one end of the table is the not very classy personality of Kevin Hayhurst (his facebook comments alone are enough to make you cringe, never mind the alleged assaults) and the other end is the city of Lowell.

So a temporary stay was issued today on the Hayhurst License Commission ruling by a superior court judge on a technicality. The problem? A bill got signed into law literally yesterday during the day, and the LC hearing was held after that, at night. That bill requires License Commissions to have five members, rendering our current-2-member LC not a quorum, and therefore its vote last night invalid.

Personally, I think the timing on this is fishy. Hayhurst’s lawyer had asked for a postponement on this hearing until yesterday…and right before the rescheduled hearing, on the same day, a bill gets signed into law which renders our 2-member License Commission a non-compliant board? Coincidences like that make me nervous.

But the real issue here is…I thought we were supposed to get a Beacon Hill insider when we hired Kevin Murphy? Someone who could sail in the seas of state laws and practices? Someone who would have seen this coming, especially since he is listed as the sponsor of this bill in the state House??

Even worse, this board went down to two members because Kevin Murphy’s own nephew had to step down since his uncle became the CM.

So let’s put this clearly: a board with KMurph’s own nephew predictably became a two person board when he took the City Manager job. He has failed thus far to appoint anyone to replace his nephew, which is bad enough by itself because two members could easily become one member, or someone might not be able to make a meeting due to an illness or something, and make the board a non-compliant board just as is. BUT! On top of that, a bill Kevin Murphy sponsored renders the two member board noncompliant. Clearly Murphy knew it had been passed, he might have had the fecking wherewithal to follow up on when it’d be signed.

I don’t think it’d be too much to ask for him to have addressed this in the five weeks he’s been at the helm of the city? Given that it was a predictable problem on BOTH fronts? It should have been one of the first things on his plate. He didn’t see that this might be a major issue facing the city? It’s not like he’s working solo - he’s foisting a ton of budgeting stuff onto temporary guru Healey, so…what the hell?? What is he waiting for? And if he, for some wackadoodle reason, had no way to make the appointment in the last few weeks, why didn’t he see the problem with the bill he sponsored in the House coming into effect and at least warn his Law Dept and License Commission, at the very least, so they could have postponed the entire meeting last night until such a time as they are compliant with the new law?

Bottom line: Kevin Murphy left his License Commissioners and Law Dept high and dry due to his neglecting the appointments he needs to be making. Now another hearing will have to be held once the Commission is more fully seated, wasting the prep time that both the LC and law dept very obviously engaged in ahead of last night.

And make no mistake, I think Kayhurst only got a temporary reprieve. The guy’s got two criminal cases pending against him as far as I know, and it’s obvious his people do NOT run a tight ship out there, given the ridiculous things they said in front of the Commission last night. But god, this makes the city look bad. Hayhurst is crowing all over facebook (and some of his supporters or employees or whatever are saying that people talking about the suspension can “go fucking die”). Murphy better fix this, fast. You just had your glitch for this mission. Now it’s time to do your job.

27 Responses to “CM Murphy Outmaneuvered On His Own Bill”

  1. kmarcin Says:

    I certainly feel filling the LC post should have been top priority for a new CM but in the end this debacle comes down to classic case of brain v brawn. The only person making money from this business is Att. Weicker (good for him). If the investors jettisoned this guy they would probably having a thriving enterprise instead of all the profits going to legal fees.
    Talk about your economic development.
    This situation provides both historical and predictive priorities for downtown. There is NO clear vision from the city/citizens or defined expectations for the future of the city. The master plan is ambiguous enough to drive a truck through.

  2. kmarcin Says:

    p.s. this guy has been a story of escalating violence since he stepped foot in the city. The worst of the bad headlines are yet to come.

  3. Paul@01842 Says:

    Couple of points:
    1. The timing does NOT negate or make moot the decision of the commission! Even though the bill was signed by the Gov. there was not enough time to officially notify the city of the changes so the two members present last night do make a quorum and therefore the decision is legal. I have this on FIRM legal authority!
    2. It was predictable that Weicker would go to the court for an injunction. I should have seen this coming last night but in my joy that a city board worked as expected I failed to stop and think! Lesson learned at least for me. It is also predictable that the court would grant a temporary injunction; they almost always do when there is a heavy financial penalty in order not to penalize someone who may later have the decision reversed in court.
    3. I would love to see the time stamp on the injunction. I suspect it was as close to close of court business as possible to prevent the city from taking any action. I also have it on FIRM legal authority that the city was not notified in advance of the hearing requesting the injunction.
    4. Finally, I have confirmation that the licenses WERE actually confiscated last night as directed. Someone who was out and about also confirmed that both clubs were dark at a much earlier time than normal! I could not find out if the licenses were returned following the granting of the injunction to either Finn’s or Brian’s Ivy Hall.

    I am cross-posting this comment to Lowell Live Feed Forum as a follow-up to an appropriate comment there.

  4. kmarcin Says:

    It is Friday and a long weekend ahead so it took a minute for my brain to catch up with this…at the last License Commission meeting Captain Kennedy, representing the city, implored the commissioners to delay the Finn’s Pub hearing until last night (you can watch that on LTC, the commissioners did not want to delay). Certainly the city administration and legal council should have realized the predicament they would face if a ruling was issued by the Commissioners if the legislature voted on the change prior to last night. This is where you have to see that of all the parties involved the only one who was paying attention to this bill passing was Att. Weicker…therefore he ends up being the smartest guy in the room.
    All-in-all the city totally dropped the ball on this…again. Set and match to Mr. Weicker. As for Mr. Hayhurst…he will strike again and it will be to the detriment of the city collectively.

    Background on Captain Kennedy…I have asked and Ted Panos has asked Superintendent Taylor if, even though legal, is it wise to have the LPD representative to the License Commission working details at downtown bars on the weekends? Answer: I’ll think about that.

  5. Lynne Says:

    It’s still a major embarrassment for the city - AND possibly a waste of taxpayer dollars, since city time was used to prep for this to be looked at last night. At the very minimum it should have been postponed til June/a new appointment gets approved.

  6. Lynne Says:

    (Does anyone really honestly want to see the LC go through what they had to go through last night?)

  7. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    I am somewhat confused. It was my understanding that a bill, after being signed into law by the Governor, does not take effect for 30 or 45 days unless there is an emergency preamble attached and this does not sound like the type of bill that would qualify for an emergency preamble. So why wouldn’t the L.C. Vote be valid?

  8. Lynne Says:

    The bill changes the law and then says, “This act shall take effect upon its passage.” So, apparently meant to take effect immediately.

    Of course, this in retrospect seems really dumb. For one thing, like you said, it’s not an emergency, only a fix for a problem (which by the way was already solved! Ugh.). For a second thing, expanding your License Commission takes lead time…you’d think enacting it in 30 days or whatever would make MUCH better sense so that cities and towns could get in compliance and NOT have this bullshit happen to them. I wonder how many OTHER towns and cities are going to have issues because of this…

    My last thought: remember how much complaining there was about Bernie and last-minute appointments? Remember how they all said, “let the new City Manager make appointments and hirings” after Bernie Lynch gave his notice? I’ve been eyeballing the fact we’ve seen ZERO appointments from Kevin Murphy with some annoyance already…I know hiring a DPD dept head or a CFO should take more time than he’s had, but the ball on appointments could have been started immediately. He could have been actively recruiting good candidates for those positions, without resorting to the “loser parade” of ousted or disgruntled people we all know have been lobbying to get back their Board/Commission jobs…it’s not like Kevin Murphy is a n00b who knows no one in the city, so why not move fast on some of the more important openings on boards and commissions? The LC is hardly the only one which is in dire need of an appointment.

  9. Lynne Says:

    But again, my bottom line point is Kevin Murphy had ALL the pieces of the puzzle in place to prevent this embarrassment, since it was both his own nephew who stepped down because Murphy became CM plus it was his bill which got passed. Sure, other people could have put two and two together had they known about both but it was his responsibility.

    Big fail on his part.

  10. kmarcin Says:

    What happens to all the licenses that were issued Thursday? Are they null?

  11. Lynne Says:

    Good question. I think the courts have to answer that about the Hayhurst suspension, and then that precedent will apply to everything else.

  12. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    If the new law contains that last line about taking effect immediately upon passage then I would say yes, all those licenses issued Thursday are void.

  13. Jerry Says:

    My prediction that Murphy will have one of the shortest tenures of any Lowell CM may just come true. This isn’t the only thing he has dropped the ball on…but what do you expect…he had no qualifications for this job of any kind….except that he was a political hack…but when I tried to tell the councilors that they didn’t want to listen… Tick, tock, the new CM search is just months away……

  14. Lynne Says:

    I don’t think it’ll be months but we all know his expiration date is three years. Since it’s such hard work, we’ll see if he lasts that long…

    But what I find ironic, is that the ONE thing that they said was a good reason for his hiring (his political experience, statehouse connections, etc) is the thing he totally messed up on.

    “You had ONE job…”

  15. Craig H Says:

    Can’t comment on the legal mud wrestling as I’m out of my depth regarding the laws and rules about all this. However, regarding the CM and the question of appointments: My impression is that there haven’t been any citizens standing to be nominated to the LC, and that this is a consistent issue since the Lynch administration. Finding a trustworthy and qualified candidate is not a finger-snap away and hasn’t been for years, and unless and until we find that the CM has volunteers from which to choose, it’s a bit hasty to suggest he’s dragging feet about this. Being a frequent attendee to the LC meetings, I’m often engaged in conversation about potential interest in serving, and I suspect any earnest, responsible and qualified citizen would get a fair hearing on their interest if they were to step forward. Of course, conspiracy theorists can suggest I’m just being naive, but until someone expresses an interest and is treated unfairly, I think we’ve got to meet the CM halfway on this one.

  16. Lynne Says:

    I’m sorry, I missed the part where the CM couldn’t be actively recruiting? Or, given the fact he had absolute and total knowledge here, couldn’t have warned his Law Dept and LC to keep an eye out for this law being signed, so they could have postponed, to give himself more time about finding someone?

    And I’m not talking about conspiracy theories, I’m talking about not being up to the task of being in charge.

  17. Craig H Says:

    Just speaking specifically about the open seat remaining open, and suggesting it may not be the best or the fairest place to be focusing possible criticism. The two commissioners, absent the recent court curve ball, were perfectly capable of meting out justice, and it’s just a bit over the top to suggest that it’s all on the CM. I didn’t suggest excusing him–just meeting him halfway.

  18. Paul@01842 Says:

    It’s going to be interesting to watch C Kennedy Tuesday. He has badgered CM Lynch over and over about vacant and expired commission appointments. I’d like to see some consistency here with at least an inquiry from him re; this fiasco.

  19. joe from Lowell Says:

    Hayhurst is crowing all over facebook (and some of his supporters or employees or whatever are saying that people talking about the suspension can “go fucking die”).

    That’s really smart because Kevin Hayhurts isn’t going to ever be before the City of Lowell for anything ever again.

    Lawyers love people like Kevin Hayhurst. They’re like an annuity.

  20. Lynne Says:

    Meet him halfway to what, Craig? Doing his job?? Do you want me to review the facts again? OK, here:

    1. He was hired “from Lowell for Lowell” and the big argument is, he knows people here. He can jump right in on the personnel thing, presumably, no?
    2. His own nephew had to resign from the LC, which was a big deal, it even made the hapless and useless Lowell Sun.
    3. That resignation left the LC barely at quorum under the *old* rules, and if someone couldn’t make it due to serious illness or other problem, the businesses looking for license rulings would have to wait around a month to get something done. Talk about “business friendly.” That’s *without* the rules change.
    4. Beyond all that, he knew there was a bill pending which would totally hose the quorum. Hell, if he was too “busy” and “overwhelmed” by his new job as CM, he should have told his Law Dept to keep an eye on it, monitor the process of passage and signing, and they would have done it.

    There were several points of failure here, and they were all his.

  21. Craig H Says:

    Add to that a 5th fact, that nobody has raised their hand to serve. (Of which I know). Opinions abound, of course, but for all the people that feel so strongly about the CM’s culpability here, criticism might be even more effective if he had refused to seat a qualified candidate. He hasn’t. I happen to attend more of these LC meetings than anyone not on the board. That’s a fact. I likewise know that people who are enjoying paying attention now will doubtless lose their fervor of their fascination after the bout of sensationalism blows over, (happened post “Fortunatos” right up until this Hayhurst soap opera–even the Smokehouse being busted for drugs in their basement lounge didn’t get a rise out of folks) and we’ll be back to a very small number of committed people trying to take on a very large and critically important part of our City Government without a whole lot of encouragement or support. Criticism is easy, positive contribution is hard. So hats off to Descoteaux and Krieger for their service, and let’s just saying I’m waiting for the next citizen to put their volunteer money where their mouth might be before I hold the new CM personally accountable for a situation that was never solved by CM Lynch, either, for all the partisanship that seems to pit his supporters against Murphy’s, and vice versa.

  22. Lynne Says:

    Bernie recruited people when he had to. KM has at *least* the amount of contacts Bernie did when he started. (Really, about 1000% more, of course.)

    And, he still didn’t warn his law dept and the LC so THEY could at least do the correct thing. That’s totally inexcusable, I’m sorry.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    Right–totally inexcusable that he dropped the ball on the pending legislation. All agreed on that. But that isn’t the element of your criticism I’m talking about here, and I surely wish it wasn’t necessary for it to be “all or nothing” in terms of agreement or disagreement on your sweeping critique of the sitting CM. To reiterate: I’m not intending to question points 1 through 4 above–just patiently repeating that we should add a fifth for fairness. I would further agree it’s reasonable to suggest CM Murphy should do more to solicit qualified candidates since, obviously, we have none to date. (Of which I know). But it’s reasonable, I should hope you can relax to agree, to respect that a CM cannot appoint a candidate who has not stepped forward. (Hence my comment about meeting halfway). CM Lynch’s last couple of years in the position encompassed repeated periods while only two license commissioners were seated, and through some extremely outrageous bar situations that failed to pique the outrage this last incident has, despite, arguably, being of a piece with it. One commissioner was only able to serve for a couple of meetings before resigning, which might suggest either CM Lynch did a poor job of it, or, more fairly, and again to my point, that finding qualified candidates interested and committed to serve on the LC is not as easy as armchair punditry might prefer to be more convenient to suggest. On this one point I think we need to remain fair and respectful to the process, and re-channel energy otherwise spent in criticism towards the mutually desired goal of encouraging the right person to step forward and serve. Turning that part of the process into political argument only serves to discourage people from volunteering. (Why would you want to put your name into a ring where everyone is already criticizing the CM about it even before he submits a name?)

  24. Craig H Says:

    Right. And, as I hope you note above, I agree with your points where that is concerned–1 through 4. My suggestion is that you’re ignoring point 5, and likewise ignoring that for significant spans of time, CM Lynch also had unfilled vacancies on the LC through periods of important violations necessary to be adjudicated by a commission of only two members. One appointee even only served a few meetings before resigning, suggesting that either CM Lynch did a poor job selecting the candidate, or, to my point, most likely that it’s not easy for whatever reason to find qualified candidates for appointment. For this I believe we should spare this one specific criticism of CM Murphy for two reasons: First of all, it’s not as easy as armchair punditry would suggest to fill an empty LC seat. Second of all, and perhaps even more important, it only serves to discourage candidacies when otherwise qualified candidates (whose most important qualification is arguably an absence of an interest in being political as opposed to being thorough and fair) when they see that their appointment is already being politicized by critics of the current city administration.

  25. joe from Lowell Says:

    You know what, Lynne?

    I don’t want to be the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, hoping for Barack Obama to have a failed presidency.

    I want City Manager Murphy to be a shining success. If he fails, it’s bad for Lowell. Rehashing the arguments for keeping Bernie are just spite at this point.

    Yeah, this was less than stellar. Still, I’m rooting for him to succeed, and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to getting his feed under him as he takes on a new job.

    (Which, btw, is a pretty good reason to try to be one of the communities that has the same manager for 20 or 30 years instead of 4 or 5.)

  26. Lynne Says:

    I’ve been giving him the benefit of some doubt for a while…but I’ve been eyeballing these boards in desperate need of action as a bad situation which needs remedying very soon, and he’s not covering himself in glory with the problem.

  27. Magnolia Says:

    It may be a bit late to comment - but I have been out of commission for a while. There was another incident at Finn’s last night, so apparently Hayhurst or his staff have not learned their lesson. I do think the new nominees for the L are good choices and hopefully they will resolve the situation. .

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