A federal complaint has been filed against Jefferson County Sheriff’s candidate James Murry, alleging he is violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from seeking partisan political office.

A federal complaint has been filed against Jefferson County Sheriff’s candidate James Murry, alleging he is violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from seeking partisan political office.


The U.S. Office of Special Council alleges in the complaint that Murry, who works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, filed his notice of candidacy "in defiance of repeated advice from both the USACE, and the OSC that the Hatch Act prohibited him from running while he is a federal employee."


Murry is running as an Independent and is seeking the office held by current Sheriff Gerald Robinson, a Democrat who defeated challenger Roger McLemore in the May Democratic primary. No Republicans have filed for the position.


Murry had to go to court to get on the ballot after Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson said he did not submit enough valid signatures on petitions he filed in February. The court overturned that decision.


Contacted Friday, Murry said the complaint was filed "to keep me out of the sheriff’s race."


According to a press release from OSC, Murry also held a fundraiser for his campaign, even though the USACE had circulated regular notices to employees about the Hatch Act’s restriction on political activity.


The press release said Murry was notified that in order to run for the office, he would have to resign from federal employment and he has refused to do so, or drop out of the race.


"It’s true," Murry said about the complaint that was filed Wednesday. "When I decided to run for the office of sheriff, I went to my project manager and asked if there was anything that would prohibit me from running and he said there was nothing he was aware of.


"I had never heard of the Hatch Act, newer been trained on the Hatch Act until after I filed and had a fundraiser," Murry said. "By that time, I had already violated the act."


Murry said he contacted the OSC and was given the option of resigning or facing disciplinary action, and he said he has refused to resign.


"I’m a licensed ordained minister and I refuse to do anything until I consult a higher authority," Murry said. "There’s no need to quit now and if it costs me my job, it costs me my job. I’m not going to resign."


The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from being candidates in partisan elections — even as Independent candidates — and from knowingly soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions from any person.


In the complaint, OSC alleges that Murry violated both of those provisions and is seeking appropriate disciplinary action against Murry, which could include being suspended, removed from federal employment, prohibited from seeking federal employment in the future or being ordered to pay a fine.


Murry said he was told he had 30 days to file a response to the complaint and a hearing would be set on the matter after that.