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Malden mayoral candidate appears before DiPaola grand jury

Posted by Marcia Dick  November 2, 2011 10:05 AM

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Nearly a year after his former boss, Middlesex Sheriff James V. DiPaola, killed himself in a hotel room in Maine, Malden mayoral candidate and City Councilor Gary Christenson has testified before a grand jury investigating the former sheriff.

Christenson, who is running against Deborah Fallon in the mayoral race, confirmed that he answered questions before a grand jury last month in Boston. 

‘‘I was there to authenticate records and was there for about 10 to 15 minutes,’’ said Christenson, who has served as the budget director for the Middlesex sheriff’s office since 1998. 

Christenson declined to discuss the records he was asked to comment on to the grand jury, and said he was not a target of the probe. He also said he did not handle DiPaola’s campaign records.

Last November, DiPaola killed himself after the Globe reported his plan to collect a pension and salary simultaneously, and the news of a state Ethics Commission investigation into campaign fund-raising activities. Just before his suicide and weeks after easily winning reelection as sheriff Nov. 2, he decided to resign.

In March, the State Ethics Commission fined a Middlesex sheriff’s office captain and two  correction officers for illegal fund-raising for DiPaola in 2009.

Brad Puffer, a spokesman for Attorney General Martha Coakley, declined to comment on grand jury proceedings but said Christenson was not being investigated by the state.

City Councilor Deborah Fallon, Christenson’s opponent in the mayoral race, declined to comment on Christenson’s grand jury appearance.

Christenson has served for eight years on the Malden City Council, and also was a five-year member of the Malden School Committee. On Oct. 1, he took an unpaid leave of absence from his post at the sheriff’s office to focus on running for mayor.

Christenson said he could have tried to postpone the grand jury request but said he had nothing to hide. ‘‘I went in and did my duty and fully cooperated,’’ he said.

Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at srosenberg@globe.com.

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