Corporation records show that Canton’s recently ousted conservation agent served as president of an engineering firm that successfully sought construction permits from the town, a fact apparently unknown to the town’s Conservation Commission.
It was this apparent dual role that ultimately led to Robert J. Murphy’s dismissal in November from the job he’s held for 22 years. According to meeting minutes obtained by the Globe, when Conservation Commission members discovered Murphy’s link to M&M Engineering Inc., they became concerned it could be in violation of the state’s conflict of interest law.
Why Murphy formed a private company to work with developers seeking permits from the town while he was working for the Conservation Commission is not clear.
Murphy, who was paid an annual salary of $48,960, has repeatedly declined to comment on M&M and anything discussed during the Conservation Commission’s executive sessions in November, after which his service contract with the town was terminated.
In an e-mail to the Globe, Murphy said: “Thank you again for the opportunity to respond to the accusations against me. As you are aware these public accusations refer to two Executive Sessions, which have not been made public. The minutes of these meetings have not been released nor have the participants been released from the confidentiality required by the law. I have made mistakes in my career but have never knowingly broken the law and do not intend to do so now.”
Later, in a brief telephone call, Murphy reiterated: “I didn’t break the law.”
A Globe review of town records found that the permit applications and plans filed by M&M to the Canton Planning Board and Conservation Commission carried the name of James E. Miller, who worked as Stoughton’s town engineer until he resigned in 2008. But the phone number listed for M&M on those applications is one of Murphy’s.
M&M Engineering is based in Easton, where Murphy lives, and was incorporated in Delaware in April 2011. According to an annual report filed with the Delaware Secretary of State’s office in January 2012, Murphy is listed as M&M’s president, its lone officer.
According to Conservation Commission executive session minutes, M&M Engineering submitted eight applications to the commission over a 20-month period in 2011 and 2012, while Murphy was working as conservation agent. A Globe review of town records found that many of the applications were approved by the commission.
Some of M&M’s project applications date back to before it was incorporated in Delaware.
For example, in 2010, M&M submitted plans for a single-family home on Old Shepard Street on behalf of Jason and William Dickie. (Jason Dickie did not return a phone call seeking comment.) Developer Don McNeice then used M&M to prepare a storm-water management reportfor a home at 169 Mechanic St. in early 2011.
In February 2012, McNeice applied for a storm-water permit for Lot 2 at 431 Bolivar St., using plans prepared by M&M Engineering. That permit was approved by the Conservation Commission and issued on March 7, 2012.
M&M Engineering was also involved in McNeice’s proposal to build two single-family homes on Hillsview Street. M&M submitted storm-water management, erosion, and sediment control plans for the project. McNeice applied for a land disturbance permit for 16 Hillsview St. on Aug. 23, 2012, and the permit was issued Sept. 5, 2012.
M&M also prepared the plans for a proposed development at 41 Plymouth St. by McNeice and W. Scott Lenhart Jr., a Canton police officer and former member of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. That project is still in the permitting process.
McNeice did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The apparent link between Murphy and M&M has raised concerns — and questions — among members of the town’s Planning Board as well.
Planning Board member Jeremy J. Comeau said it would be “horrendous” if it turns out Murphy was working both sides of the permitting process and was gaining financially from projects reviewed by the Planning Board.
“I would like to know how deep these ties [between Murphy and M&M] go,” said Comeau. “I know there are other town officials concerned with it. . . . It’s difficult to do anything because we don’t have all the facts.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.