Rep. Murphy fires staffer who alleged ethics breach
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A former aide to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, who was fired after publicly alleging ethics violations by the congressman, said yesterday she will miss her salary and benefits but is happy to be gone from a "hostile environment."
Jayne O'Shaughnessy, Mr. Murphy's scheduler in his Mt. Lebanon office since April 2005, said she was fired Tuesday -- Election Day -- in an e-mail sent by the chief of staff for the Republican congressman from Upper St. Clair.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that appeared 10 days before the election, Ms. O'Shaughnessy accused Mr. Murphy of crossing an ethical line by using taxpayer-funded congressional staff and resources to do campaign work.
A spokesman for Mr. Murphy, who defeated Democratic challenger Chad Kluko to retain his 18th District seat for a third term, said in a statement: "Throughout his tenure in Congress, he has complied with House rules and has consistently endeavored to ensure that all staff are aware of and comply with those important obligations."
Mr. Murphy has reported Ms. O'Shaughnessy's allegations to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, or ethics committee, said his spokesman, Mark Carpenter.
However, the committee operates in secrecy, and officials there cannot address questions about rules violations. Mr. Carpenter also said the allegations are confidential.
Ms. O'Shaugnessy said she was not given a reason for her termination in the e-mail from Susan Mosychuk.
However, she said, on Nov. 2 Ms. Mosychuk informed her she had violated an internal office rule and told her to begin a planned vacation early.
"I was told by the chief of staff a couple of days prior to me leaving that I had not abided by one of the rules in the employee's policy and procedures handbook, which was you wouldn't talk to the press without approval," Ms. O'Shaughnessy said.
Ms. O'Shaughnessy acknowledged that she was aware of the office handbook, but said she had not read it cover to cover and did not know about the restrictions on speaking to the media.
In the Post-Gazette article, Ms. O'Shaughnessy and five of Mr. Murphy's former staffers said the congressman had improperly mixed campaign activities and official government work.
Ms. O'Shaughnessy was one of only two staff members willing to be identified in the article, and the only one working at the time for Mr. Murphy.
"I knew I was taking a chance. How come I did it? Because I saw somebody doing something wrong, and he needs to be accountable. Why should he be treated any differently than anyone else who breaks the rules? I witnessed it. I saw those things happening."
Mr. Murphy's office staff used fax machines, copiers, printers, office computers and telephones for campaign activities, Ms. O'Shaughnessy claims.
The congressman held campaign strategy sessions in his congressional office, she said. And staffers had to stick campaign labels on Christmas cards Mr. Murphy mailed out to contributors, she said.
House ethics rules for members say no campaign activities may take place in any congressional office, and use of office resources such as equipment, supplies or files is prohibited. The guidelines also say staff may do campaign work on their own time, but only outside the congressional office. They may not be compelled to do such work.
Ms. O'Shaughnessy described Mr. Murphy as "very difficult" to work for.
"If any little thing happened, if one little piece of information was missing from one part of his homework which wasn't even worth talking about, he would just flip out," she said.
Ms. O'Shaughnessy, 63, of Sewickley, said she is exploring whether she might be covered by federal whistle-blower protection. In the meantime, she said she plans to collect unemployment.
First Published November 11, 2006 12:00 am