Karen E. Spilka, who ascended to the Senate presidency promising to “turn the page” from a tumultuous chapter in chamber history, has quietly leaned on the top aide of her predecessor Stanley C. Rosenberg to help do just that.
Spilka has kept Rosenberg’s former chief of staff, Natasha Perez, on the Senate payroll since January to provide her office with “transition advice and consultation,” aides confirmed Thursday.
The part-time post carries an annualized salary of $70,000, though Spilka’s office declined to address on the record how long Perez will remain on her staff or whether she has a desk or office in the building.
Perez served as Rosenberg’s chief of staff for more than three years, and remained his aide after he stepped down from his leadership post in December 2017 following accusations from four men that his husband, Bryon Hefner, had sexually assaulted or harassed them.
Rosenberg later resigned his seat under pressure in May, and Perez stayed on to help staff the office until a successor could be sworn in. It’s a common State House practice when there’s an open legislative seat to keep some staff on hand to handle calls and address concerns from constituents.
All the while, Senator Harriette Chandler completed an eight-month stint as the chamber’s president before officially turning the gavel to Spilka in July.
But as the calendar flipped to 2019 — and Senator Jo Comerford assembled her own staff as she took over Rosenberg’s Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester seat — Perez remained on the Senate payroll.
Her job title, as it is for other chamber staff, is listed as “Senate Default” in payroll records, and the part-time pay represents about half of her $129,000 salary as Rosenberg’s chief of staff, which made her the chamber’s highest-paid staffer in 2017.
Spilka aides defended retaining Perez more than a year after Rosenberg relinquished his leadership post, saying new Senate presidents have traditionally kept on some staff. Her office did not answer questions about the type of work on which Perez is advising Spilka.
“It is . . . customary for senior Senate staff to advise leadership to ensure an orderly transition from one Senate President to another,” said Sarah Blodgett, a Spilka spokeswoman.
Spilka declined to answer questions about Perez on Thursday when approached after an unrelated event on Boston Common, telling a Globe reporter that her office was preparing a statement. Perez also declined comment.
A veteran political consultant, Perez hadn’t worked in the State House before Rosenberg hired her in November 2014. “I am a complete outsider,” she told the State House News Service then.
She previously served as a spokeswoman Michael Flaherty’s 2009 Boston mayoral campaign and John Connolly’s bid to succeed Thomas M. Menino four years later, before spending a short stint as an adviser to independent Jeff McCormick’s gubernatorial bid in 2014.
Perez also has worked as a deputy director for the state Democratic Party and was a political director for AARP in the 1990s.