WELLS, Maine — A Massachusetts sheriff who was facing an investigation into his use of campaign funds and who was under fire for initially trying to get two pensions died Saturday from an apparent suicide, authorities said.
Wells police said Middlesex County Sheriff James DiPaola was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the head around 12:30 p.m. at Lafayette Resorts in Wells, about 30 miles south of Portland.
A hotel manager found DiPaola on his bed after cleaning staff discovered the dead bolt was activated and DiPaola failed to check out, police said. The gun believed to be the one DiPaola used was found in the room, and he left a multiple-page note, Wells police said.
The Middlesex sheriff’s office confirmed DiPaola’s death in a statement and said the office will operate under Special Sheriff John Granara.
The 57-year-old DiPaola recently announced he was retiring and was able to take advantage of a state pension law that allows retirees to run for paid elective office without losing pensions.
DiPaola, a Democrat who had just won re-election in November, could have accepted an annual pension of $98,500 in addition to his sheriff’s pay of $123,000 next year. But after The Boston Globe asked about the pension, he said he could not in good conscience accept both, even though it’s legal.
He said he would resign in January rather than take a pension in addition to his salary.
Gov. Deval Patrick, who criticized DiPaola’s initial plan to take a pension and pay, later praised him for resigning.
Recently, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office said it was investigating allegations of improper use of campaign funds by DiPaola. In addition, the state ethics commission was investigating whether sheriff’s office employees were raising money for DiPaola’s political committee.
As word began to spread of DiPaola’s death, fellow elected officials expressed condolences for DiPaola, who was a former state lawmaker.
“I am deeply saddened by the death of Sheriff DiPaola, with whom I had the chance to serve in the House of Representatives,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
DiPaola was first sworn in as sheriff 16 years ago to the day of his death, according to his biography on the Middlesex sheriff’s office website.
He served two terms as the state representative from Malden’s 36th Middlesex District from 1992 to 1996 and was an 18-year veteran of the Malden Police Department, the website said.