After numerous traffic violations, Mass. highway safety director reassigned

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The director of the Massachusetts Highway Safety Division was assigned to a “different role” over the weekend following reports that her driving record included seven traffic accidents, four speeding violations and one infraction for not wearing her seat belt.

Sheila Burgess, despite having no background in public safety, transportation or government administration, was appointed to the position in July 2007, according to The Boston Globe, which reported that she has been on medical leave since August when she sustained a head injury in a car crash. She told police she drove off the road to avoid hitting an oncoming vehicle in her lane.

“Given her driving record, it is clear that Ms. Burgess should not have been hired as the director of Highway Safety in 2007,” public safety secretary Mary Elizabeth Heffernan said in a statement, announcing Burgess would be moved to a “different role within the Executive Office.”

“While she has performed her duties properly and with professionalism, has not had any citations or at-fault accidents since she was hired and has otherwise been a solid and dependable employee, Ms. Burgess cannot expect the public’s trust, nor mine, as the directory of Highway Safety going forward,” Heffernan added.

Since 1982 Burgess had 34 entries on her driving record, and her license status was “nonrenewable” until the Globe began reporting on the matter and she paid due local excise taxes on Nov. 1.

Prior to her $87,000 safety job, Burgess had spent twenty years working in Democratic politics as a paid consultant and congressional aide, according to the The Globe, which added that she was also a former fund raising consultant for Democratic Rep. James McGovern, whose office told the paper Friday that McGovern asked the Patrick administration to hire Burgess in 2007. McGovern’s office added that the congressman did not specify a position.

Monday, the nonpartisan Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance condemned Burgess and questioned why she has not been completely removed from the state payroll.

“If Governor Patrick wants to demonstrate to the taxpayers that he’ll put their interests ahead of political loyalty, he should immediately remove Ms. Burgess from the state’s payroll,” the group’s executive director Paul D. Craney said in a statement.

The paper further noted that the announcement Burgess was being reassigned came shortly after Gov. Deval Patrick expressed anger to reporters over the matter and said he “will get to the bottom on it.”

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