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County, Lovejoy mayor fighting over firing

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Clayton County has moved to get a civil service board ruling overturned and keep a fired building inspector from returning to work.

Joe Murphy, a county building inspector who is also the mayor of Lovejoy and owns his own electrical company, was fired by the county on allegations he inspected and approved work he had done as a private contractor. Murphy appealed the termination, and in June, the Clayton County Civil Service Board, ruled in his favor.

The discharge, the board ruled, was "excessive and disproportionate."

The county government's attorney, Jack Hancock, has filed an appeal with the Clayton County Superior Court, asking the court to overrule the civil service board and confirm the county's firing of Murphy.

Hancock claims the board's "decision is contrary to law," and argues "there is evidence on the record to support his termination."

Murphy did not dispute the allegations he inappropriately inspected work for the county, which he had done as a private contractor, but said it was merely a minor infraction and should have resulted in a warning or a citation.

Steve Frey, the attorney representing Murphy, said the county commissioners should have called Murphy into the office and called him a "stupid slab-head" and told him to "knock it off."

The county's attorneys said there was a clear pattern of ignoring the rules regarding conflict of interest. The county insists that "no employee shall engage in any business, occupation or profession which would adversely affect or interfere with his duty, as an employee." Attorney's argued that Murphy's alleged disregard undermines confidence in the county.

The civil service board, by a vote of 4-1, agreed with Frey, ruling that the violations were minor and technical. The board suggested Murphy be suspended for 30 days and given a job that didn't conflict with his electrical company's work.

Frey said the appeal is frivolous and part of an ongoing effort toget rid of the Lovejoy mayor.

"I don't know where Joe ran afoul,or whose toes he stepped on," Frey said, "but it's pretty obvious they wanted to fire him, and then found a reason."

No court hearings have been scheduled yet.