Murphree agrees to retire, ending feud with Town Board

Riverhead Town has reached an agreement with Jefferson Murphree, its former building and planning administrator, who was facing charges including “neglect of duty, misconduct, insubordination, incompetence” and others. 

The agreement, a portion of which was read into the record by Supervisor Tim Hubbard at a Town Board meeting last week, states that “the parties have resolved their dispute, and the charges have been withdrawn in exchange for Mr. Murphree‘s agreement to retire within one year.” 

The agreement, which the News-Review obtained through a FOIL request, grants Mr. Murphree full back pay for the 30-day suspension that began in April 2023 and, allows him to use up all of his accrued paid vacation and personal time, along with as much accrued paid sick leave as can be supported by medical documentation, before retiring. 

Starting on the day after the Town Board formally ratifies this agreement, Mr. Murphree will be permitted to use 525 hours of his accrued paid vacation time and then, consecutively, 28.75 hours of accrued paid personal leave time, the agreement states. That amounts to approximately 69 paid eight-hour days. 

He will then be able to use as many of his 582.75 hours of accrued paid sick leave (minus 10 sick days that he has requested to buy back) as can be justified. 

Once Mr. Murphree has used and been paid for all of this accrued time, the agreement states that “continuing through the effective date of his … retirement, Mr. Murphree will be suspended, with pay, during his regular work hours.” In addition, it says, once he has signed the agreement, “Mr. Murphree will be prohibited from entering Town property for the purpose of attending any employment-related activities or functions … without the advance written consent” of the supervisor or a designee. 

In March 2023, former supervisor Yvette Aguiar first brought charges against Mr. Murphree, leading to a 30-day unpaid suspension that began in April. After 30 days, his suspension was extended, with pay, until November 2023, when Mr. Murphree was reinstated with reduced job responsibilities. 

“The position the town is still taking is that we’re seeking termination,” town attorney Erik Howard said at that time. “The Town Board voted to bring him back to do planning work, so long as he was getting paid.”

Gerard Glass, Mr. Murphree’s attorney in the case, said that since that since the end of the initial suspension, “they paid him essentially to stay home.”

Mr. Murphree was hired by the town in 2012 and was overseeing the town’s Comprehensive Plan update up to the point he was suspended. His annual salary as of January 2024 was $149,391.

Mr. Murphree’s troubles began in February 2022 when he participated via Zoom in a Greater Jamesport Civic Association meeting. During the discussion, he angered residents by commenting that he had never experienced heavy Sound Avenue traffic and had no desire to do so, that he never goes to Riverhead beaches and that he had never visited any of the town’s wineries “because they were overflow crowded with a bunch of drunk people.”