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 Marshal Gets Paid, But Has No Police Powers

July 8, 2009 - While several questions about Carthage Town Marshal Dan Murphy remain unanswered, town officials have confirmed that he is continuing to be paid for 50-hour work weeks, despite having lost his police powers.

At the Carthage Town Council's July 1 regular monthly meeting, Council President Rick Bush, responding to a question from The Banner, did confirm Murphy, who was not in attendance, currently has no police powers. This is because Murphy did not, as state law requires, complete his law enforcement training within one year of being hired to work in the Carthage Police Department.

Initially, Bush was not going to say whether Murphy, who was hired in late April 2008, had lost his police powers, which include the authority to make arrests, conduct searches and seizures, and carry firearms. "That's going to relate to his training, and pretty much I'm not going to comment on that at the meeting," he said. "I would consider that confidential."

However, Bush, who is now serving as interim town marshal, added to his first response. "When I was hired as the interim marshal, it was pretty much already stated that Dan had not completed the academy yet, and that Dan could not do certain things during that time frame," he said. "That's why I was appointed the interim marshal while he's gone."

Bush then went on to acknowledged that Murphy does not have police powers. "And that's all I'm going to comment on that matter," he said. "To me, that's confidential personnel matter. ... It's been asked, and it's been answered."

Under Indiana's Access to Public Records Act, the personnel files of public employees are not, as Bush said, confidential. Instead, with the exception of certain personnel information that must always be released, personnel files, even of law enforcement officers, are public records that public agencies have the discretion to disclose and make available.

Murphy began an eight-week town marshal training program at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy on April 27, a year and a day after he was first hired to work for the CPD. He is not scheduled to complete his training, and will not get his police powers back, until mid-August.

In late March, the town council voted to appoint Bush to be the interim town marshal, at a pay rate of $11 an hour, while Murphy is at the academy. In addition to paying Bush, the town also continues to pay Murphy at $12 an hour for 50-hour work weeks while he's away at the ILEA, and even on weeks when he's not in training. According to Lt. Norm Camerer, who heads the ILEA's town marshal program, one of the benefits of the trainees having some weeks off during the course is it allows them to return home where they can work. He said this can be particularly important in small communities where the town marshal may be the only officer, or one of just two or three.

During last Wednesday's meeting, council member Doris Wyatt questioned why the town is paying Murphy for a 50-hour work week when he's not at the ILEA. If he has no police powers, she asked what he had been doing.

"He's working on his office," Bush said, referring to some remodeling being done at the CPD. "He's been doing firearms. He's been going to court. He's been doing other things that involve not just going out and making arrests. He has made no arrests. He cannot do any searches. That's why I was put as the interim (marshal), because he could not do that because his year was up at that point."

The Banner then asked whether other council members had been told Murphy would be losing his police powers when they voted to make Bush interim marshal. "I didn't know," Wyatt said. She said she thought Bush would only be the interim marshal the weeks Murphy is away at the ILEA, and that Murphy would carry out his town marshal duties on the weeks he's home.

Council member Jack Taylor also said he was not aware Murphy had lost his police powers. A few minutes later, he said he simply didn't recall having been told that was going to happen.

"I think we should probably review the notes, review the minutes, make a formal assessment of what the discussion was rather than just try to recall what happens from memory three months ago," said Adam Forrest, the town's new attorney. "... I just think it's best that we review the minutes. I think that's fairer than putting people on the spot.”

Later in the meeting, Wyatt expressed her displeasure over paying Murphy for 50 hours of work each week when he has no police powers and is, therefore, unable to do his full job. "That's not right," she said, adding that she thought it was "stupid" for the town to pay him for studying for his classes, something she said "should be done on his own time."

Bush said the council had agreed to pay Murphy for a 50-hour work week during the time he was at the ILEA. When Wyatt asked how it was determined to pay him for 50 hours a week when not at the ILEA, Bush said it was based on the academy's 10-hour training days.

"He doesn't do … 50 hours of work," Wyatt said of when Murphy is back in Carthage on the weeks he doesn't have training. Council member Bill Armstrong also said he didn't think Murphy was working 50 hours when not at the academy.

Clerk-Treasurer Linda McMahan asked whether Murphy could provide a schedule of when he will be in town and when he will be at the ILEA. She said she currently has no way to contact Murphy and later added that "no one knows when he's here."

Taylor said he would like to see Murphy be proactive and work to earn what the town is paying him. "It's not vacation time," he said, adding that he would feel guilty if he was being paid but not doing the work he was expected to do.

Bush said that he, Taylor and Armstrong would try to contact Murphy to let him know "the expectations have changed a little." Taylor said he didn't view it as a situation where expectations had changed, saying he thought they had always been there.

"I thought the weeks he was home he'd be doing his regular job," Wyatt said. "We don't know what he's doing. He's not studying all that time."

The Banner also asked during last week's meeting whether it was true that Murphy had purchased new tires for his personal vehicle at Greensfork Alignment and Service Center in Centerville that he had charged to the town. Again, Bush was evasive.

"No comment on that," Bush said. "Next question." Asked why he would not comment on that matter, Bush again said, "No comment. Next question."

The Banner has requested copies of public records from the town of Carthage that should show whether Murphy had work done on his own personal vehicle charged to the town. As of Tuesday's news deadline for this week's issue, however, those records had not been provided.

Although she would not provide details on the record at this time, McMahan, who, as clerk-treasurer, is the town's chief financial officer, did confirm Murphy had tires for his car charged to the town. A co-owner of the Centerville garage, Joe Nocton, also told The Banner the town had disputed the bill for the tires, which he said had recently been paid by the officer who had the work done.

The council was scheduled to meet privately in executive session at 6 p.m. last night to discuss a performance evaluation of a town employee who was not identified, followed at 7 p.m. by a special meeting that is open to the public. News of any developments from those meetings will appear in next week's Banner.

 

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