RALEIGH — Nearly a week after an embattled district attorney resigned from his elected position, the residents of Person and Caswell counties have a new leader in the prosecutor’s office.
On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced the appointment of Assistant Attorney General Jacqueline Perez as the counties’ interim district attorney.
“Ms. Perez will provide the steady leadership the office needs so it can continue its important work prosecuting cases and protecting the people of Caswell and Person counties,” Cooper said in a news release.
Perez, a Person County resident, replaces former District Attorney Wallace Bradsher, who resigned late last week in the midst of a State Bureau of Investigation probe into his office and that of Craig Blitzer, the former Rockingham County district attorney.
The former prosecutors are accused of hiring each other’s wives in a scheme to collect more than $100,000 combined in unearned salaries.
Blitzer resigned March 10 and was replaced by former Forsyth County District Attorney Tom Keith.
This is the second time in recent history a governor had to replace a district attorney under investigation in Person County. In 2010, Joel Brewer pleaded guilty to seven counts of assault on a female and one count each of willfully failing to discharge duties and impersonating a police officer.
Bradsher, a Republican, had served as district attorney since 2011.
Cooper’s office originally expected to make the announcement within hours of Bradsher’s resignation last week.
Noelle Talley, a Cooper spokeswoman, said the appointment took longer than expected because of the extensive process the governor had to go through to find a replacement.
“I got the call this morning asking if I would accept the job,” Perez said by phone on Wednesday. “I live in Person County and I’ve been prosecuting for a long time. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
The 47-year-old Perez has served as a defense attorney, assistant district attorney in Orange County and most recently as a prosecutor for the N.C. Attorney General’s office handling Medicaid cases in both state and federal courts.
Perez will be sworn in as district attorney on Tuesday and plans to finish out the remainder of Bradsher’s term, which expires on Dec. 31, 2018.
She said the first step in her new role is meeting with staff as well as the sheriffs, police chiefs and clerks of court of both counties.
Meanwhile, the SBI investigation into her new office is nearing an end.
“That’s certainly something I’ve followed to the extent that it has been in the papers,” Perez said. “We’ll deal with whatever issues come up as a result of the investigation that is ongoing and we will cooperate with investigators.”