Globe Editorial

After bashing public spending, Perry shouldn’t add to it

Jeff Perry Jeff Perry (Barry Chin/ Globe Staff)
January 26, 2011

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OF ALL people, Jeff Perry should look askance at a well-paid government job offered by a political benefactor. In his unsuccessful campaign for Congress last fall, Perry came off as sincere and dedicated in his commitment to limited-government conservatism. In a campaign video, he maintained that state government is “full of waste, patronage, abuse.’’ In his book “My GOP,’’ he numbered “ensuring fiscal responsibility’’ and “fighting to make government smaller’’ among the principles that Republicans should live by.

None of which explains why Perry would assume a $110,000-a-year position as special sheriff of Barnstable County. The job offer came from a friend and political supporter, Barnstable Sheriff James Cummings. Yet the job had been empty for two years, raising the obvious question of whether it was even necessary. Beacon Hill Republicans rightly objected when Governor Patrick tried to appoint then-state senator Marian Walsh to a long-vacant $175,000-a-year post in the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority. Perry’s appointment is similarly suspect.

Perry, a former police officer with a law degree, argues that the Barnstable job is a “perfect fit’’ for his credentials, and says he wants to be back in public service. In some ways, this is a welcome acknowledgement that, notwithstanding the rhetoric of Perry and some like-minded Republicans, working in government can be an honorable pursuit. Then again, well-paid but probably unnecessary administrative jobs — one of which now goes to Perry — are part of what gives government bureaucracies a bad name.

When even people who loudly decry waste in government take part in it when it benefits them, the result is cynicism in the electorate and an everybody-does-it mentality among high-level public employees. Perry can uphold his values and protect the public purse by giving up the position.