An investigation by The Enterprise has identified hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and federal tax liens and monetary judgments in local courts assessed against Easton Board of Selectman chairman and former candidate for state representative Daniel J. Murphy dating back at least eight years.
EASTON – With a financial cloud looming over him, the town’s selectmen chairman, who said he wouldn’t run for his seat again, now plans to resign.
An investigation by The Enterprise has identified hundreds of thousands of dollars owed in taxes to the state and federal government and monetary judgments in local courts assessed against Easton Selectmen’s chairman and former candidate for state representative Daniel Murphy dating back at least eight years.
Murphy, a professional tax accountant and payroll specialist who has been on the board since 2011, has previously said he did not plan to seek re-election after the expiration of his current term, his third, but told The Enterprise after the paper questioned him about the liens and lawsuits this week that he plans to resign his seat early.
As a member of the town’s top elected board, Murphy is charged in part with overseeing the town’s financial health, approving the town’s budget, raising or lowering tax rates and carrying out other fiscal responsibilities. He also previously served on the town’s finance committee, which advises Town Meeting on financial articles and decisions.
Easton has seen its share of controversy in town government in recent years, including administrative problems that led to the firing of its former town manager, David Colton, and the former town clerk after he failed for years to submit bylaws for state approval. The town also saw a contentious $4 million proposition 2½ override vote to raise additional tax revenue for parts of the town budget, which voters eventually rejected.
Murphy, who has not been connected to any financial wrongdoing in town business, attributed his decision to resign to a tumultuous year in town government and a desire to focus more on his family, not the Enterprise’s findings. He noted his six-year-old daughter is in remission after a battle with kidney cancer over the last year.
The court cases mostly deal with business dealings in which Murphy repeatedly failed to pay the full amounts agreed upon.
Since 2012, Murphy has been ordered to pay at least $277,000 in monetary judgments resulting from lawsuits he lost in Norfolk Superior Court and Brockton District Court, according to court records obtained by The Enterprise.
Murphy, in an interview this week, said all of that could be attributed to one bad business deal in 2011, in which he accuses the seller, Irving S. Dunn of Sharon, of lying to him about the value of the business, which then began to fail after the departure of a long-time employee who, Murphy said, took along a substantial number of the firm’s clients.
Murphy said the business didn’t turn a profit after he purchased it, which led to him being unable to pay what he owed on two other businesses, one that he bought before his purchase from Dunn and another that he purchased simultaneously, because the debt service outstripped his revenues.
Dunn sued Murphy after he stopped making payments, and a judge ruled against Murphy in December of 2014. Calls to Dunn for comment were not returned.
“It was a waterfall effect from (the Dunn purchase),” he said. “Mr. Dunn lied to me… the numbers were skewed.”
He was also sued by the former owners of those two businesses. He said he continued to run those businesses until their leases expired, and has been making semi-regular payments to the sellers since.
“They’re not monthly regular, but I try to do good by them,” he said. “They got caught up in my big problem.”
Neither responded to requests for interviews from The Enterprise and Murphy produced no documentation of those payments.
Murphy said he’s since scaled back his business to his original location in Easton.
Murphy owes the lion’s share of the outstanding debt to the federal Internal Revenue Service, but claims public records from the Bristol County Registry of Deeds overstate the total amount.
Federal income tax liens against Murphy’s home in North Easton date back to 2009, while similar liens for employer withholding taxes were filed against him for the 2012 and 2014 tax years. In all, the records show that owes the IRS about $583,000, mostly from the 2009 through 2011 tax years.
He also owes $5,667 to the state Department of Revenue, the records show. Town records show that he does not owe any local real estate or personal property taxes in Easton.
Murphy told The Enterprise he believes those figures are inaccurate and that he’s negotiated some of it down to about $100,000 with the IRS, but could not provide documentation of those exchanges.
He said the liens were also tied to the Dunn purchase, since there was income coming in but no revenue and he ran his businesses as a sole proprietor.
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