A department-wide audit will be new Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian’s first order of business, he said during a press conference Friday.
The former assistant district attorney and state representative said public safety is the top priority of his new job, but an audit of the books--and personnel practices--is his first task.
"My priority is to professionalize this office," Koutoujian said after being introduced by Gov. Deval Patrick Friday.
Word leaked out early Friday afternoon that Koutoujian would be named Sheriff, replacing John Granara, who served on an interim basis since James DiPaola committed suicide in late November.
At a press conference at Cambridge District Court in Medford Friday afternoon, Patrick made it official. Police Chiefs from Middlesex County communities lined up behind Patrick and Koutoujian as they addressed the media.
"I looked at a lot of people for this job," Patrick said. "And I've got the very best candidate."
Koutoujian, 49, currently occupies Middlesex County's 10th district seat, which includes Waltham and parts of Watertown and Newton. Voters re-elected Koutoujian to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for an eighth term in November.
During his service as a Middlesex Assistant District Attorney from 1991 to 1995, Koutoujian handled criminal cases including major felonies and misdemeanors as well as appellate matters in the county's 12 district courts and the Supreme Judicial Court.
"My entire professional life and career has prepared me for this job and I'm ready to do it now," Koutoujian said.
Making sure convicts serve the sentence they were given, and having them rehabilitated to re-enter society when they are released will be his main focuses as Sheriff, he said.
Koutoujian takes over the reins of a department in turmoil. Prior to his death, DiPaola announced he would resign in January after controversy over his plans to exploit a loophole in the law enforcement pension system.
Days prior to his death, the attorney general's office began an investigation into allegations of financial corruption in the Sheriff's department. That investigation is ongoing, according to a spokesman for the attorney general's office.
Koutoujian said he has no knowledge of the current investigations by the attorney general's office into the Middlesex County Sheriffs Office, but will work with investigators, if need be.
"If there are investigations I will not only cooperate but I will work with these investigations," Koutoujian said.
Koutoujian will serve as Sheriff for the next two years, then an election will be held in 2012. He applied for the job, and Patrick picked him after reviewing an undisclosed number of candidates.
"We've got a great Sheriff," Patrick said. "You just watch and see."