Smithtown Town Board members plan to appoint acting Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy to the department’s top job, replacing former Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen, who resigned after pleading guilty to misconduct charges.
Board members are to make the appointment — effective through Dec. 31 — at the March 1 town board meeting, Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said.
Vecchio, who is sponsoring the resolution, cited Murphy’s leadership during two heavy snowfalls in January and February. “In my long tenure here, while the public has always been complimentary about the Smithtown Highway Department in its snow-fighting capacity, these last two events have engendered more compliments than my office has ever had in the past,” Vecchio said in a Friday interview.
Town board members said in interviews that they plan to vote in favor of Murphy’s appointment.
Councilman Thomas McCarthy commended Murphy’s work ethic, saying “he gets the job done.” Councilwoman Lynne C. Nowick said she has received compliments from residents on Murphy’s responsiveness to their inquiries.
Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo said he has “an excellent way of working with his staff and the public,” while Councilman Edward Wehrheim praised Murphy’s cooperation and leadership during the past winter storms.
Murphy, 52, of Nesconset, said he was “excited” to take on the job that includes managing about 130 employees and a budget of more than $25 million — about a quarter of Smithtown’s $101 million operating budget this year. “I look forward to working in the community and with the town board,” Murphy said.
Murphy was the deputy highway superintendent from 2012 to October, when he became acting highway superintendent after Jorgensen resigned. Jorgensen had pleaded guilty in state Supreme Court in Riverhead to a felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. Jorgensen admitted to directing a town employee to alter road construction reports to conceal his approval of Medford-based contractor Suffolk Asphalt Corp. paving at least eight Smithtown streets in November 2014 during temperatures that state standards have determined are too cold. He was sentenced in December to 560 hours of community service and 3 years’ probation.
In the months following Jorgensen’s resignation, Murphy said he has focused on bringing teamwork back to the highway department and restoring pride. “It was there, but we were losing our direction,” he said, adding that “open communication and treating people with respect” have been key in day-to-day operations.
Murphy said his short-term goals include increasing contact with town board members and residents as well as delegating highway workers to take on more projects that contractors have typically completed in the past. For example, highway workers are adding 30 more parking stalls near the ballfields at Veterans Memorial Park in St. James and realigning the intersection of Gibbs Pond Road and Lake Avenue near the Nesconset Fire Department’s firehouse.
“It’s saving the residents money and also showing that the highway workers have the skills to do the projects as laborers and operators,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he is also preparing to run in the November election to fill the remainder of Jorgensen’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2017. Town officials have said another election will be held in November 2017 for the full, four-year highway superintendent term.
-- Currently acting Smithtown highway superintendent
-- Worked as a capital project manager in Suffolk County’s Building and Engineering Department from 2010 to 2012
-- Has 25 years of civil engineering experience in private industry for companies including Sidney B. Bowne & Son LLP in Mineola and Cashin Associates in Hauppauge.
-- Received a bachelor’s degree in business management from University of Phoenix and is a graduate of Smithtown High School East.