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Will Rep. Kevin Murphy Flunk Another Big Test?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Blow up the beach ball.

It looks like state Rep. Kevin Murphy finally got his college degree from the University of Scranton.

I say “looks like” because I still don’t have official confirmation that the two-term lawmaker finally completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice that for more than two decades he falsely claimed he possessed.

I’ll check with university officials this afternoon.

Just to be sure, you should, too.

We all depend on each other in Northeastern Pennsylvania because elected and appointed public officials here have as bad a reputation for deceit as anywhere in the country. So following up on facts is always required to keep them honest – or as close to honesty as we can get.

Murphy paid the price for his dishonesty.

I first asked him about his degree the Friday before the following Tuesday’s April 24 primary election. By Election Day, Murphy had told a number of conflicting stories about the degree and why he thought he had it, didn’t ask for it and would soon receive it.

Murphy mentioned money, confusion and misunderstanding. But the bottom line was that he said he had a degree that he didn’t have. He even acknowledged claiming the degree on an official state job application he filled out before successfully running for public office.

Murphy got that job.

Now he’s lost this one.

In large part because of the massive public controversy surrounding his degree, voters rejected Murphy, choosing a former professional boxer turned cage fighter with a police record and a magnum cum punchy degree from the school of hard knocks.

Some choice.

Murphy went back to the Capitol in Harrisburg, counting the months until he has to clean out his office and go looking for work elsewhere. But Murphy still didn’t come completely clean.

For weeks after university officials made it clear that Murphy did not graduate, he allowed incorrect biographical information about the degree to remain on the official state House of Representatives website.

I had to call the leader of the House Democratic Caucus to get the false information changed.

But the truth is the truth and state government has enough problems without a lawmaker using state resources to foster a lie. So somebody removed the lie and new biographical information characterized Murphy as having attended the University of Scranton rather than possessing a degree from the esteemed local university.

Until yesterday when a source called to say that the House of Representatives site once again listed Murphy’s degree – minus the year of graduation.

Responding quickly to my late afternoon email, Bill Patton, press spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus, wrote that the university conferred Murphy’s degree last month and that the year was inadvertently omitted by the House webmaster.

Patton didn’t say if he or other Democratic leadership officials had confirmed Murphy’s degree with university officials or if they simply took Murphy’s word for it.

The lesson for good government advocates is to confirm everything possible that elected and appointed officials tell you. That goes for candidates, too, who are prone to boast and dance and deny to the best of their ability.

Another long shot winner in the Scranton legislative sweepstakes is Kevin Haggerty, who also unseated an incumbent – tax scofflaw Kenny Smith – and still refuses to detail the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Marine Corps. Semper Fi usually means more than always being faithful to your own ego and political aspirations.

But in hard coal country, political ego is as much an enemy to democracy as the Viet Cong or the Taliban.

Murphy’s troubles still might not be over because his old state job application should be on file somewhere in a dusty government drawer in Harrisburg. If he did list a degree that he didn’t possess to get the full-time public service job he got, will prosecutors consider this fraud to be a crime? If so, has the statute of limitations run out? Is Murphy subject to arrest?

After I check with the “U,” I’ll check with the state attorney general’s office and let you know.

If Murphy’s in the clear, maybe he can ask to get his old job back. If his bosses liked him without a degree, think what he might do now that he really has one.

Tags :  
Topics : Politics
Locations : Harrisburg
People : Bill PattonKenny SmithKevin HaggertyKevin Murphy

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