BOSTON – An ever-present aide to Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney took a leave of absence Friday after he became the subject of investigations in two states for allegedly impersonating a law enforcement officer.
His attorney denied the charges.
Jay Garrity, who serves as director of operations and is constantly at the side of the former Massachusetts governor, is accused of leaving a lengthy message with the answering service of a plumbing company on Mother's Day, identifying himself as "Trooper Garrity" of the Massachusetts State Police and complaining about erratic driving by a company driver.
The district attorney in Boston is investigating the call, which was tape recorded by an after-hours operator. Impersonating an officer is a misdemeanor charge carrying a fine of up to $400 and one year imprisonment.
"Listening to the message, it sounded like he was calling control and speaking back and forth to people," said Dot Barme, whose Burlington company, Wayne's Drains, received the call. "I had my husband listen to it and he said, 'He's not talking to anybody; he's talking back and forth to himself," Barme told The Associated Press.
Stephen Jones, an attorney representing Garrity, said his client did not make the May 13 call, first reported by The Boston Globe, and has no connection with the cell phone to which it was traced.
"He has insisted since he's heard about this to have a voice analysis done to exonerate him or prove he did not do this," Jones said.
Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, confirmed the investigation.
"We're looking into a phone call placed to an area business by an individual who represented himself as a state trooper," Wark said. "We do not believe the person who made that call is a state trooper and we are working to determine his identity."
Meanwhile, Garrity also has been accused of telling a New York Times reporter who had been following Romney's motorcade in New Hampshire last month that he had run the license plate of the reporter's rental car, and that he should break away from the caravan.
The New Hampshire attorney general's office is investigating that incident after the reporter, Mark Leibovich, recounted the May 29 events in a story about Romney last weekend. New Hampshire law prohibits citizens from accessing the state's license plate database.
"Jay has taken a leave of absence from the campaign to address these complaints," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.
Jones, the Garrity attorney, disputed the sequence of events. Leibovich has stood by his version of the story.
In 2004, Garrity was cited and fined by Massachusetts officials after a Ford Crown Victoria registered to him was found to have lights, a siren, radios and other law enforcement equipment — including a baton — after it was parked illegally in Boston's North End. At the time, Garrity was paid $75,000 annually as Romney's gubernatorial chief of operations.