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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 15, 2009

Murley takes plea

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The town’s long-time, now retired, police chief has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and the judge has ordered him to get counseling for a gambling addiction.

Nearly two years after James Murley, 62, was put on administrative leave, surrounded by a great deal of secrecy, the 35-year veteran of the force pleaded guilty to the charge of official misconduct for leaving work repeatedly to gamble.

Several months after he was put on paid administrative leave in February of 2007, Murley retired from the Guilderland Police Department with a deal that maintained his retirement benefits from the $97,000-a-year post and his accrued vacation time.

After hearing initial allegations of sexual harassment, said Supervisor Kenneth Runion this week, the town began to investigate Murley and later turned over all the information it had gathered to the Albany County District Attorney’s office and the State Police, who conducted the nearly two-year investigation that resulted in the plea bargain.

“Our charges weren’t brought to a conclusion… because he retired,” Runion said of the town’s position.

Between Feb. 23, 2001 and Aug. 18, 2004, Murley failed to file leave forms from work 53 times and filed sick leave forms three times when he was absent from work to go to Turning Stone Casino, in Verona, N.Y., according to court papers.

Judge Kenneth Connolly, a visiting Voorheesville village justice, sentenced Murley in Albany City Court on Friday to pay $13,500 in restitution to the town, plus an $800 fine and a $200 state surcharge, and ordered him to get counseling for a gambling addiction.

“I was surprised by that,” Runion said of the gambling issue.  “He brought the town police force from a five man, part time police department to the professional thirty-five person department it is now,” Runion wrote in a statement on Friday.  “Unfortunately, the affects of a gambling addiction led to his pleading guilty to official misconduct… This demonstrates the affects this illness can have on an admirable career.”

When asked this week if he had noticed Murley’s relatively frequent absences, Runion, who has been supervisor since 2000, responded, “He didn’t have a job where he was required to be at his desk 24/7.”  Department heads, of which the chief of police is one, are often out of the building on business, Runion said.

Although she declined to comment on most aspects of Murley’s plea bargain, Police Chief Carol Lawlor, who was second in command for much of Murley’s tenure as chief, said of the times that he wasn’t at work, “The next ranking officer was in charge,” which is true of any situation where the most senior officer is absent.  “I was the next one after” Murley, she said, but she would not comment on whether she noticed the undocumented absences or suspected a gambling addiction.

“When they were looking into the allegations… the evidence that was gathered pointed to the new charges,” said Heather Orth, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, of the charge that ended up coming out of the investigation as opposed to what the town had begun with.

“I have heard rumors about his gambling at Turning Stone since about 2001,” Gail Van Patten, an administrative aide at the Guilderland Police Department, said in a statement to State Police in July of 2007.  “Several years ago I noticed Murley missing days at work and not filling out slips.  I often would fill in part of the slip with the date, type of leave and his name and he would sign,” she said.  “I began to feel uncomfortable about doing this after noticing that he had been missing days from work.  I told Carol Lawlor that I had to say something about this to him and I did.”

In June of 2007, Captain Curtis Cox told State Police, “I would describe Jim Murley as a nice person, supportive and the jokester type.”  After explaining the criteria that the department uses to notify senior officers of an incident, he said, “Often I would not know the whereabouts of Chief Murley.  Periodically Chief Murley would not show up for work and his location and status were unknown.”

Murley would not comment this week other than to say, “I wish everyone the very best.”

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