Jeffrey D. Perry, the former state representative who narrowly lost in a hard-fought campaign for Congress in November, begins today serving in the position of special sheriff of Barnstable County.
In that $110,000-a-year position, Perry, a Republican of Sandwich, will be the top assistant to James M. Cummings, the long-time Barnstable County sheriff. Perry, 47, could not be reached for comment this morning.
The move positions Perry, an attorney and former Wareham police officer who served eight years on Beacon Hill, to maintain a public profile for possible future campaigns for elective public office.
Perry’s campaign for Congress against Democrat William R. Keating, the former Norfolk County district attorney, faced accusations that as a police officer, Perry stood by while an officer under his supervision strip searched a teenage girl.
Cummings in an interview said he hired a retired FBI agent to conduct an investigation of the incidents last month.
“The investigator was completely satisfied that Jeff Perry did nothing to cover up and did not stand by and watch the strip search,” he said.
Democrats ran countless ads hammering Perry for his role as a Wareham police sergeant in the 1990s, when an officer under his command illegally strip-searched two teenage girls, according to court records.
Perry was not charged or disciplined, but gave conflicting accounts of his actions in both cases, according to court records.
Cummings said Perry had pledged to leave the state House of Representatives after eight years, meaning he would be out of a job in January of this year. Knowing that, Cummings said he and Perry had discussions about Perry coming to work at the Sheriff’s Department even before Perry decided instead to run for Congress.
“After he lost, we resumed our discussions and he decided to come aboard,” Cummings, 61, said. Cummings’s current term expires in 2017, and he said he expects to serve out the entire term.
“Jeff has law enforcement experience, he’s an attorney, and he’s been in the Legislature,” said Cummings. “Those are all good things as far as becoming special sheriff is concerned.”
The special sheriff, which is a position set out in state law, serves as the sheriff's top assistant.
Cummings said he has gone without a special sheriff for several years.
One top deputy, Republican David Vieira, of Falmouth, resigned recently after being elected to the state House of Representatives, allowing Cummings to fund the special sheriff's position in part with money previous paid to Vieira as a deputy.
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