House majority whip Charles A. Murphy, facing certain defeat in any effort to hold his office, resigned his leadership position at a Democratic caucus this morning, saying he wanted to avoid putting his colleagues through a vote on his removal that was being engineered by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.
“I resigned because I wasn’t going to put the members through a vote like that,’’ Murphy told reporters as he emerged from the caucus room. “I find that unpalatable.’’
DeLeo forced Murphy’s removal from his leadership team after Murphy had told some of his legislative colleagues that the ongoing federal investigation of the Probation Department could topple the speaker and other top legislative leaders.
Murphy had made no secret of his desire to be elected the next speaker of the House.
This morning DeLeo filled Murphy’s whip position with veteran state Representative Byron Rushing, a South End Democrat, who has been serving as a floor division chair, a post that has few duties.
DeLeo gave Rushing’s old position to Representative Michael J. Moran, his election committee chairman, who won praise for his work in the legislative and congressional redistricting process. The promotion will double the $7,500 stipend Moran gets as the committee chairman.
Murphy, who was third in line on the House leadership, denied today that he had been disloyal or ever implied that DeLeo would be swept in the federal probe.
“I have never suggested Bob DeLeo would be indicted,’’ he said.
There is no evidence the investigation is focused on the speaker.
Murphy then read from a prepared statement.
“The speaker and others in his leadership team are not happy that I have the audacity to speak to members about the future of the House,’’ said Murphy, a Burlington Democrat.
“I will resume my position on the back bench with my head held high for I have done nothing wrong,’’ he said.
As he emerged from the caucus room, DeLeo offered little insight into why he made the dramatic move, other than to say he wanted to create the “best team’’ as the House prepares for the 2012 session that opens in January. He denied he had made the move against Murphy because his majority whip had been disloyal.
Never has a speaker called a party caucus to reshuffle his leadership when the House is out of session for the year. DeLeo dodged a question as to whether his motivation was based on Murphy’s maneuvers.
“I am not going to get into reason why,’’ he said, reiterating that his motive was to better deal with the House agenda for next year.
Earlier this year, DeLeo, upset that Murphy had not pushed his agenda, removed him as his House Ways and Means Committee chairman, but kept him a part of his leadership team at that point.