Italian court rules getting dressed in the morning is part of day job after policeman punches clock in underpants

Nick Squires
Alberto Muraglia was able to punch his time card wearing only a pair of Y-fronts and a T-shirt because he lived in a flat above his office

An Italian court has ruled that getting dressed in the morning is part and parcel of an employee’s official duties after siding with a policeman who became a symbol of skiving officialdom when he was caught clocking on for work in his underpants.

Alberto Muraglia found himself a national laughing stock after his portly frame, in Y-fronts and t-shirt, was captured on CCTV punching a time card in the council accommodation block where he and his family lived.

After clocking on, he went upstairs to his apartment to get dressed for the day’s work in the seaside town of Sanremo, in the northern region of Liguria.

But in a decision which has sparked bewilderment and indignation, a court in the nearby town of Imperia has ruled it was legitimate for the officer to clock on at the start of his shift and then go home to pull on his uniform, saying that getting dressed in the morning is an integral part of a public servant’s duties.

The court acquitted him of the charge of defrauding the state of public funds.

“The fact that he was in his civilian clothes does not matter because putting on the uniform is considered part of work, so it can be done after clocking on,” said Alessandro Moroni, the officer’s lawyer.

Nor was the fact that Mr Muraglia sometimes sent his daughter downstairs to punch his timecard on his behalf considered fraudulent.

The case brought the attitude of some public servants to the fore in Italian media (file photo) Credit: Trentino TV via REUTERS

When the case first came to light in 2015, the lawyer said his client’s state of undress was no obstacle to him doing his duties, claiming he had once foiled a robbery while dressed in his pants.

The case set off a debate over absenteeism and the indolence of some civil servants in a country where it is not unknown for officials to skive off their duties while holding down second jobs.

It even drew in the then prime minister, Matteo Renzi, who called it “crazy” and said officials who bunked off work destroyed the credibility of the public service.

The black and white images of the policeman in his underwear became an emblem of Italy’s battle against fannulloni or good-for-nothing slackers in council offices and government departments across the country.

The investigation by finance police was ironically dubbed Operation Stakhanov, after a legendary Soviet miner who worked so prodigiously that he became a hero of the USSR.

The court’s ruling was front-page news on Tuesday, with Corriere della Sera calling it a “surprise”.

Mr Muraglia had become “the symbol of a world of lazy slackers in Italy’s public administration,” the paper said.

The officer was sacked after the case emerged in 2015 and set up a business mending fridges and electrical appliances. But he now wants his job back.

The 58-year-old said the last five years had been a “nightmare” in which he had been pilloried by the nation.

“I knew that I had done nothing wrong but it was good to hear the judge say that I’m innocent,” he said.

But prosecutors said the case was not over – they will wait for the “motivazione” or full explanation of the court, which must be delivered within 90 days.

More than 30 other public officials from Sanremo were swept up in the same investigation, including one who clocked on and then headed to the beach for a day’s kayaking.

Sixteen of them entered into plea bargaining and were handed down suspended prison sentences of 10 to 19 months. The others are still awaiting trial.

---Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK---