There is no denying that I was completely blindsided by the breaking news this morning that Wilkes-Barre City Administrator J.J. Murphy has decided to move on to, ahem, greener pastures.
But after talking with him early this most gloomy of afternoons, I think I know what’s really afoot far beyond, a couple of years beyond his surprising decision to resign his position at this point in time.
I snagged the following from the Times Leader:
Administrator to leave W-B City Hall post
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the administration,” he said.
Leighton did not return calls Friday evening.
Murphy said he is leaving because he is missing spending time with his four daughters with the demands of his city position. His daughters are ages 9, 8, 5 and 4.
“I’m doing it so I can spend time with my four girls,” said Murphy, 38. “I’m gone before they get up in the morning and many times they’re in bed before I get home.”
Murphy was a driving force in establishing the city’s surveillance-camera system. Part of the system is to be activated next month.
He is the second to leave the Leighton administration within a month.
Former city administrative coordinator Bridget Giunta left her post Sept. 30 to accept a position as associate director of alumni relations at Wilkes University.
On Oct. 2 Leighton asked the FBI to look into the conduct of a city employee.
First of all, let us address the ongoing F.B.I. Investigation, shall we?
With a bit of surefire, paper-selling yellow journalism, we were told by the Citizens’ Voice that the mayor requested that the F.B.I. investigate potential wrongdoing by a city employee. And splashed all over Page 1 on that day were the pictures of both Frank Kratz and Butch Frati, with the purposeful suggestion being that they were both under investigation by the federal authorities.
In fact, while both Kratz and Frati did indeed “talk” to the feds, they were not the subject of intense federal scrutiny. Rather, they were merely a means to a potential prosecutorial end of another yet-to-be-named city employee. They were not the targets of the investigation.
As part of J.J.’s exit interview with a Times Leader reporter just yesterday, he was asked point blank if this decision on his part had anything to do with any sort of federal probe into any alleged wrongdoing by city employees. And his response was already published, no, he’s got his own reasons for moving on.
But during our conversation this afternoon, he also told me that a current city council person (gender neutral nonsense) warned him that it’s best to “leave now on your own terms or in two years on someone else’s terms.” And it should be told that this particular city council person (more gender neutral claptrap) has been rumored and then some to having some serious mayoral ambitions.
So this is where I’m at with all of this.
First, Bridget Giunta announces that she’s moving on. And less than a month later, J.J. Murphy does likewise. And that not-so-veiled threat from a city council person (Argh!) suggests to me that J.J.’s future employment with the city beyond two years was contingent upon the mayor staying put past his current term.
And with all of that said, whether he’s announced his future intentions or not, I am now assuming that Mayor Tom Leighton has decided to become our lame duck mayor. I’m assuming that he’s had his fill of leaving his home when it’s dark, returning home when it’s dark, and being criticized to no end by the clueless folks with thoroughly dulled axes to grind.
And if that is his unstated decision, to step down and get on with his life, I can’t say I blame him. While the rewards of being Wilkes-Barre’s closest thing to a savior must be satisfying, the long hours, the nonstop scrutiny and the unsubstantiated criticisms have to weigh very heavy on him at times.
And if I’m reading this right, if Tom Leighton has already decided not to seek another term, in my mind, this is a sad, sad day for Wilkes-Barre. Whether you want to admit it or not, Tom Leighton has been very good for Wilkes-Barre.
Time will tell.