An article in the Lowell Sun earlier this week, spotlighted why so called ethics reform is hollow. Kevin Murphy’s continued representation of Union Clients with business before local and state government entities raises a conflict of interest that is not fixed by the new ethics statute.
For more than 12 years, state Rep. Kevin Murphy has sought to strike a balance between his career as a private attorney and his duties, as a legislator, to the public and his Lowell constituents.
But never more so than over the past year have the mingling of his private- and public-sector careers appeared to create a conflict for the veteran lawmaker, who was re-elected last fall by his biggest margin ever over an opponent.
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.
Representative Murphy has many clients that are public employee unions. As a State Representative I argue that he has a conflict of interest because he helps control the purse-strings of local aid. While he may not bring that up directly in negotiations that elephant is always in the room.
The Lowell Sun references current law that the Ethics Committee did not take into account that buttresses my point.
Chapter 268A, Section 23 of Massachusetts General Law states: “No current officer or employee of a state, county or municipal agency shall knowingly, or with reason to know, accept other employment involving compensation of substantial value, the responsibilities of which are inherently incompatible with the responsibilities of his public office.”
Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts and a member of the commission Gov. Deval Patrick created to make recommendations on ethics reform, raised her eyebrows at Murphy’s activities outside the Statehouse but declined to discuss them specifically.
“Some of those questions were beyond our scope and fairly complex to actually responsibly address it,” Wilmot said. “I think we thought the law was broadly adequate, and you’re still not allowed to be involved in a matter (before the state) that affects your financial interest.”