Norfolk sheriff’s office offers a soft landing for prominent state GOP officials
The Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office, led by a Democrat for four decades, is looking a lot more red these days.
A Democrat-turned-Republican himself, newly appointed Sheriff Jerry McDermott has turned to GOP operatives, including a fellow onetime Scott Brown aide and a former Baker administration official, to fill several management roles in his office.
Appointed by Governor Charlie Baker in December, McDermott’s responsibilities include overseeing the Norfolk County jail in Dedham, whose rank-and-file staff largely included unionized corrections officers.
It’s in the office’s upper ranks where McDermott said there “were vacancies and management needs that required the hiring of these experienced, qualified professionals.”
They include Greg Casey, a Republican state committeeman who McDermott hired as his $95,700-a-year chief of staff, according to state payroll records.
Like McDermott, who once served as state director to onetime senator Scott Brown, Casey was a longtime Brown aide, working in the Republican’s state Senate office before ascending to his deputy chief of staff when Brown was in Washington.
McDermott also hired Matthew Sisk, another GOP state committee member, who started in February as the office’s $77,000-a-year director of community affairs.
A volunteer on Baker’s 2014 campaign, Sisk was forced to step down as the administration’s deputy conservation and recreation commissioner in 2016 after inappropriately using the siren and flashing lights on his state vehicle to get through heavy Boston traffic.
His departure came just months after he was disciplined for drawing on public resources for a July 2016 GOP event, including using state-owned golf carts to transport guests to the Esplanade for fireworks and the Boston Pops show.
To handle government affairs, McDermott tapped Victor Pap, who had served as political director to Republican John Kingston’s unsuccessful Senate campaign in 2018. Pap had also managed now-Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito’s 2010 campaign for state treasurer, according to his LinkedIn account.
Kara Nyman, a McDermott spokeswoman, said Friday that Pap was no longer in his $82,500-a-year position but declined to say when his last day was or describe the circumstances of his departure. A replacement has not been hired, she said.
Reached by phone Friday, Pap said he couldn’t talk and would call a Globe reporter back. Further efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.
McDermott was not available for an interview, Nyman said. But he defended the hires in a statement, saying they have “decades” of experience at the federal, state, and local levels.
“The private political activities of any employee play no bearing on their employment status, which is based on merit and performance,” McDermott said.
In building his leadership team, McDermott also gave his general counsel and former state GOP party chair, Kirsten Hughes, a $27,500 raise weeks after naming her special sheriff — a position his office said at the time wouldn’t carry additional pay.
Hughes, who McDermott hired as his general counsel in January, serves as acting sheriff when McDermott is out of state and is also now considered a “senior advisor,” according to the office.
Her new $137,500 salary — a 25 percent jump from her original pay — “reflects the duties she is entrusted to execute,” McDermott said.
A Democrat when he served on the Boston City Council for six years, McDermott unenrolled from the party in 2010 and registered as a Republican in 2013.
Before him, the office had been controlled by Democrats for the better part of 43 years. Former sheriff Michael G. Bellotti, who resigned last fall to become interim president of Quincy College, held the seat since 1999 after he defeated Jack Flood, a onetime Democrat who was appointed to the seat in 1996 and then ran unsuccessfully as a Republican.
And before Flood, there was Clifford Marshall, whose 21-year tenure kick-started the office’s Democratic run in the mid-1970s.