Following an executive session of the town board Thursday, March 15, Supervisor Kenneth Runion announced that charges of sexual harassment have been added to existing charges against Guilderland Police Chief James Murley.
The new charges came nearly one week after Murley was placed on unpaid suspension for three allegations of misconduct. Following Thursday’s closed-door meeting, Runion announced that additional charges, described as a violation of the town’s sexual harassment policy, had been added.
Runion said the charges were the result of the original complaint filed against Murley on Feb. 5 from the head of a town department. At that time, the town retained attorney Claudia Ryan to investigate. During the course of her investigation, she uncovered further misconduct.
At an earlier press conference held March 9 to announce Murley’s suspension, Runion referred to reports of sexual harassment in the media as unfounded. Following Thursday’s announcement of the additional charges, Runion said that he could not comment publicly on the sexual harassment charges until the investigation was complete.
The sexual harassment charges would be added to the other allegations against Murley, which include misconduct regarding interaction with a vendor; alleged violations of the town’s ethics law with respect to his interaction with town employees; and misconduct in his maintenance of attendance and leave records.
`Each and every charge will be contested very, very vigorously,` said William Cade, the attorney for Murley. `James Murley spent 34 years as a chief with a totally unblemished record.`
Cade said he could not comment on the charges because none had been received by Tuesday, March 20, but called the charges `baseless.`
Runion said that the charges would be served some time this week, and following that, Murley would have eight days to respond to them. A hearing will then be scheduled within 30 days, at which the town board could vote to terminate Murley.
`I do think the charges are serious enough that termination is warranted,` said Runion.
Runion would not elaborate on the specifics of the allegations, citing confidentiality laws that protect town employees who are under investigation.
According to Runion, Murley has the option to retire, but he would still be subject to penalties found in the town’s ethics laws, which could include fines and forfeiture of health insurance benefits.
Runion said Murley had not been asked to resign.
Prior to his suspension, Murley had been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 8 for undisclosed reasons.“