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Smithtown highway superintendent seeks $40G salary increase

Smithtown Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy, seen above on

Smithtown Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy, seen above on May 30, has asked for a $40,000 raise on his $110,000 annual salary. Credit: Ed Betz

Smithtown Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy has requested a $40,000 raise on his $110,000 salary, town documents show.

His boss isn’t going for it.

“The request is a little bit over the top,” Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said Tuesday. “I have no intention of including that raise in the tentative budget.”

The request appeared on a budget worksheet from the Highway Department that Vecchio and the town comptroller are reviewing along with documents from other departments, to prepare an early draft of Smithtown’s 2018 budget. Vecchio is to submit a draft to the Town Council by Sept. 30 for review and possible amendment. The council generally votes on the budget in October, and any salary change would take effect Jan. 1.

Murphy, who is not eligible for overtime pay, said Wednesday he was making less than some of his subordinates and that the $40,000 request was merely an anchor for what he presumed would be a salary negotiation.

“Would he give me forty? Absolutely not, but it was a starting point to negotiate a salary we thought was good for the department,” Murphy said.

He works 14 to 15 hours a day during weather emergencies, he said, and is taking on more responsibilities as the town expands its shared services work with highway departments for three villages. The town has more than 460 miles of roads. The villages have 50 to 75 miles. Ultimately, he said, that work will save taxpayer money.

Murphy manages about 130 employees and a budget of about $30 million — more than a quarter of Smithtown’s $108 million operating budget this year.

He made identical salary requests each of the past two years, he said. A $40,000 bump would make him one of Smithtown’s most highly paid employees, likely trailing only Environmental Protection Director Russell Barnett and Public Safety Director John Valentine. Barnett was paid $161,280 in base salary in 2016, Newsday’s town payroll database shows. Valentine was paid $158,761 that year.

Murphy, 53, of St. James, started working for Smithtown in 2012 as deputy highway superintendent. He is a Republican in the middle of a re-election campaign in which he faces no opponent. He is part of a slate of candidates opposing Vecchio and his allies in town government this year.

Murphy was appointed in 2015 to replace former Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen, who resigned after pleading guilty to misconduct charges. Murphy won a November election to fill the remainder of Jorgensen’s term. The term ends Dec. 31.

His 2017 $110,000 base salary puts him near the middle of the pay range for the superintendent’s job in Long Island towns. The average base salary for that position last year was $114,285, according to payroll records.

Council members have praised Murphy’s work in winter storms and on town roads throughout the year.

“I believe Robert Murphy has done an excellent job,” said Councilwoman Lynne Nowick. Councilman Tom McCarthy and Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo also said they were was pleased with Murphy’s work. Inzerillo said “only a select few can handle” the responsibilities that come with the job.

Councilman Ed Wehrheim, who is running for supervisor in the same slate of candidates as Murphy, said he was “extremely happy” with Murphy’s work. “Anything that residents need as far as service goes, he takes care of it expeditiously.”

The four council members said they would wait to review the full budget before making a decision about individual salaries.

Vecchio noted that regardless of Murphy’s performance, “When somebody runs for office, they know exactly what the position pays. . . . I certainly am not going to include raises for elected officials in my budget.”

Before Murphy came to Smithtown, he worked as a capital project manager in Suffolk County’s Building and Engineering Department from 2010 to 2012. He 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.

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