Former Wilkes-Barre city administrator J.J. Murphy recently testified in a civil trial that Mayor Tom Leighton had worked three-hour days in City Hall.
Leighton, on the other hand, contends he has fulfilled his responsibilities to the post in an emailed statement issued Thursday: “The position of Mayor is a full-time job and I have fulfilled this commitment as I enter the 11th year of my third term.”
Murphy’s testimony that Leighton worked abbreviated hours was offered in a trial resulting from a lawsuit Murphy filed against commissioners in Radnor Township, Delaware County, where he unsuccessfully applied for the position of township manager in 2009.
Murphy, who now works as city manager in Hobbs, N.M., claimed he was not hired in Radnor just outside of Philadelphia because commissioners there worried that his commitment to the Air Force Reserve would require him to leave town too often.
A jury in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on Wednesday agreed that was one factor in the decision not to hire him, but found there were other factors as well, according to a story in the Delaware County Daily Times.
Murphy, who was seeking back pay and damages, noted the federal Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act prohibits employers from using a job applicant’s military commitments against him or her in hiring decisions.
In order for Murphy to have won the case, the jury would have had to find that there were no other reasons for the township not to have hired him, the Delaware County Daily Times reported.
In testimony at the trial, Radnor Township officials said they were concerned that Murphy had overstated his qualifications and his role in turning around Wilkes-Barre’s troubled finances, as opposed to what Leighton did, the newspaper reported.
Murphy said in testimony that the mayor worked about three hours a day “because he had a full-time real estate business,” The Daily Times reported.
“In the cross-examination (the following day), Murphy, when asked about his statement on the mayor’s work habits, he said he meant that the mayor worked three hours a day in City Hall and then went out and conducted city business, such as cutting ribbons,” the newspaper reported.
In an emailed reply to a reporter’s request for comment, Murphy said on Thursday that he had no further comment other than what he posted on Facebook regarding the trial.
“I was vindicated today when a jury agreed that Radnor Township, PA violated the Federal law against a veteran,” Murphy posted on Wednesday, adding that the jury found he proved that his obligation for service in the military was a motivating factor in the township’s decision not to hire him. “This is what they tried to deny all of this time.”
Murphy wrote that he was not awarded damages because he could not prove that a majority of commissioners took the action.
“This case was never about the money, it was proving what I have been saying for almost five years. I was discriminated against and denied a fair shot at a key position because of my military obligations. Hopefully, standing up to Radnor will give other communities pause when thinking they are above the law,” he said.
Murphy did not respond to a follow-up email asking whether he planned to appeal the decision in the Radnor case and whether his testimony about Leighton was reported accurately.