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DOC’s top uniformed officer was ‘mad as hell’ at forced retirement, now works as janitor

2019-09-10

His ouster in June 2017 was so abrupt, the city Correction Department’s top uniformed officer griped bitterly about not being allowed to say goodbye to his co-workers — and ended up as a janitor at a Rockland County school district, documents obtained by the Daily News reveal.

“I was mad as hell,” Martin Murphy said in a deposition of his force retirement by then-Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte.

“You don’t get to say goodbye to anybody you spent years, decades working with,” Murphy said. “You know, you just pack your stuff and you’re out the door.”

After Ponte told him he was done, Murphy recounted, “I left his office, packed up my office, my uniform and my pictures off the wall and I left.

It wasn’t the send-off he expected.

“Traditionally, they line up the executive staff and emergency service unit and correction officers that available down Hazen Street [the main road on Rikers Island], and you give a little speech and you get a final salute as you depart the island,” Murphy said.

As of late last year, Murphy was working as a custodian for the Pearl River school district in Rockland County. He said his responsibilities were to “set up the cafeteria for lunch; sweep the floor.”

His last year at the department, Murphy was paid $221,515.

The revelations about Murphy’s departure came in depositions that are part of a discrimination lawsuit brought by three high-ranking black Correction officials who said they were wrongly forced out of their jobs. The city settled the suit earlier this year for $275,000.

Ponte believed Murphy was too entrenched in the Correction Department’s dysfunctional culture as he tried to rein in the violence on Rikers Island under supervision of a federal monitor, the documents say.

Murphy’s long experience in the agency were seen as a negative, said Jeff Thamititikasem, Ponte’s chief of staff. “Chief Murphy was from the department, and a big emphasis for Commissioner Ponte was bringing in outside people who were not just going to replicate what this department had done,” Thamititikasem said.

Murphy’s ouster came shortly before Ponte retired in the summer of 2017 amid outrage over his trips to Maine in a city vehicle.

“He lied to me,” Ponte said of Murphy in a deposition.

“He came in on his own, told me he’s retiring...then he went to Cynthia Brann, who was going to be acting commissioner, and told her he had lied to me and he wanted to stay (on the job).”

Neither Ponte or Murphy responded to inquiries from The News.