ActivePaper Archive Murphy turns down merit raise - Hobbs News Sun, 8/23/2015

Murphy turns down merit raise

• Also, Hobbs manager applied earlier this year for Florida position



Hobbs City Manager J.J. Murphy recently bowed out of a 3 percent raise after taking note of the local “financial climate.”

“I’m sensitive to that,” Murphy said. “We have people getting laid off. I mean, my kids aren’t going to go hungry because I didn’t take a 3 percent merit increase. I’m paid very well and I understand that. But I’m the CEO of an organization of more than 500 employees with a $180 million budget. There’s a lot of responsibility in that job and I’m glad I have it.”

Murphy did receive the same two percent cost of living pay raise all city employees received this year. His current salary stands at $176,835.36.

The three percent raise he declined was a “merit raise” for his performance, which received “very, very good” written evaluations from the city commissioners, he said.› If Murphy accepted the merit raise, his salary would’ve increased to $182,036.40. Murphy said other city employees did receive a merit raise and that he personally took up the cause himself.

“I slaved every day for our employees, I fought for their merit raises, and I’m glad they got it,” Murphy said. “They earned it. I’m happy with the day-to-day work with this organization. That needed to be a story, not my contract. My contract pales in comparison to the day-to-day operations of our community.”

Murphy, who has two years left in his current contract, could have it extend another five years once completed, pending city commission approval. “I’m enjoying my time here and I think we’re still doing a lot of great work,” Murphy said. “I think anyone who looks at the community can say we’ve improved over the last three years, but they’re not my accomplishments — they’re the organization’s accomplishments.”

The News-Sun recently learned that earlier this year Murphy applied for the position of county administrator of Palm Beach County, Fla.

When asked what Palm Beach could offer that the City of Hobbs couldn’t, Murphy declined to comment. He would only say a recruiter contacted him and suggested he apply for the position.

The Florida county government has 1,500 employees and could’ve offered double his current salary, Murphy said.

Out of 81 people who initially applied, the Palm Beach County advisory committee narrowed the list to a dozen including Murphy, according to a Sun-Sentinel article published February 23. Murphy was not selected for the job.

Commissioner Jonathan Sena, who gave Murphy high marks in his evaluation, said Murphy told him he had applied for the job.

“He let me know (he applied for the job) afterwards,” Sena said. “He’s a young professional with a bright future. I’m just glad we have him in Hobbs and we have a lot more great work to do with our Health, Wellness and Learning Center and other local developments. I look forward to finishing and moving forward over the next two years we have with J.J. Murphy.”

Mayor Sam Cobb saw nothing wrong with Murphy applying for other jobs.

“People do that all the time,” Cobb said. “I don’t think ill of J.J. for doing that and so I’m not naïve enough to think all employees of all organizations never send their resumes out to see what opportunities are out there. As an employer, knowing I have employees that do that, it doesn’t make me think they don’t have any loyalty to my business. That’s the way things are.”

Murphy wouldn’t be entitled to a severance package, “unless all or a portion of the severance is specifically approved by City Commission at that time.”

The Hobbs commission was set to approve Murphy’s merit raise during its regular meeting July 6. It was a consent agenda item that could’ve been approved along with the other items through a single motion.

Sena said the consent agenda is for items considered more routine and less controversial. But Cobb made a motion to table the item in order to give the commissioners time to meet and discuss Murphy’s raise. The commission voted to table the item in a 6-1 vote. Commissioner Crystal Mullins was the lone dissenter.

During that time, Murphy made the decision to opt out of the merit raise.

“I felt that my contract became an issue, and the terms in the contract became an issue with one or more commissioners,” Murphy said. “I didn’t need to divide a commission over my contract. So I voluntarily waived the merit increase.”

“J.J.’s willingness to move forward without the merit raise, I thought, was a respectful and classy move and decision in light of where some people are in economic terms,” Sena added.

“I think he wanted the community to know he was committed to staying in Hobbs and just felt like it was becoming a divisive issue in the community,” Cobb added.

In the July 12 edition, the News-Sun found that Murphy’s salary rivals those of city managers overseeing New Mexico’s most populous cities.

For example, the chief administrative officer of Albuquerque, Robert Perry, has a base salary of $182,478.41, according to their city records. Las Cruces City Manager Robert Garza brings home $179,826.82 a year. Murphy’s salary has increased almost 24 percent since he first became Hobbs’ city manager three years ago. His benefits have also broadened over those three years.

Sean Czarnecki can be reached at 391-5434 or .