SPARTA, NJ – Sparta Township Councilman and former mayor Jerry Murphy was charged with DWI early on Saturday morning. At 12:45 a.m. Police Officer Daniel Elig, while conducting “speed enforcement” saw a vehicle speeding and "operating erratically" on Mohawk Avenue and Route 517, according to police.
Officer Elig began following the green 2007 Toyota Station Wagon after the “dash mounted Stalker Radar Unit” registered the vehicle traveling at 34 mph in a 25 mph zone. He observed that the vehicle “continuously drifted right straddling at times the white fog line.”
Officer Elig stopped the vehicle north of the Sparta Middle School on Rte 517. While speaking with the operator, Jerard Murphy, the officer “detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his mouth,” police report.
Murphy, 71 years-old failed a series of Field Sobriety tests. He was placed under arrest for DWI and was transported to the Sparta Police Department Headquarters for breath testing and processing.
Murphy was charged with DWI, Careless Driving, Failure to Maintain a Single Lane of Travel, Speeding, Failure to Produce a Valid Insurance Card and Displaying Unclear License Plates.
Murphy was released several hours later to a sober adult. His vehicle was impounded. His court date is to be set early this week.
Sgt Joseph Pensado and Ogdensburg Police Officer David Cowdrick assisted with the investigation.
New Jersey statute NJSA 2C: 51-2 does not require an elected official to resign a position unless he is found guilty of a third degree or higher offense. The complaints that were filed are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Penalties for a first time DWI can include court imposed and administrative penalties and punishments including loss of license for a period of time, at least 12 hours of jail time, a minimum of $250 in fines and other penalties. These penalties are assessed based on the drive’s blood alcohol content. Murphy’s BAC was not released.
Murphy has been a “lifelong Sparta resident” according to a statement he made in a previous interview with TAP into Sparta.
Councilman Murphy was first elected to Sparta Township Council in a special election to fill a vacancy created when Doug Martin moved and had to resign his seat in 2005. Murphy was then elected for a full three year term in 2008 and reelected in 2012.
Recently Murphy’s residency has been called into question by former Sparta Mayor Michael Spekhardt. Spekhardt first began questioning the residency when he provided a packet of photos to the council members of homes that, due to their unkempt appearance, seemed to be vacant. One of those homes belonged to Murphy.
Murphy also got some backlash for comments he made during the Planning Board’s Visioning subcommittee discussions about the VFW being an “eye sore" that should be torn down and more.
A member of Sparta Township Council receives a stipend ranging from $3,000 to $3,600 with the mayor receiving $3,050 to $4050, as of June 10, 2014.
Murphy does not list any other employment on his annual Local Government Ethics Law Financial Disclosure Statement for 2015. He had been previously employed as township clerk for Stillwater, Sandyston and Roselle in Union county.