Governor Says He Didn’t Know About Safety Chief’s Driving Record (Which Wasn’t Good)

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Her driving record includes seven ­accidents, four speeding violations, two failures to stop for a police officer, one failure to stay in her lane, one driving without registration or license in possession, and one driving without wearing a seat belt.


Yet Sheila Burgess is director of the Massachusetts Highway Safety Division.

Well, she was until yesterday.

To be fair, Burgess apparently had not added anything to her record between the time she was hired for that job in 2007 and the accident she got into in August of this year. Nor was she cited in that crash, which she claimed was caused by an oncoming driver she had to swerve to avoid. Accidents happen. It's just a little embarrassing when it turns out seven of them happened to someone you later hired to be your highway-safety director.

Or who someone hired, anyway. Gov. Deval Patrick told reporters on Nov. 19 he was angry that someone with 34 entries on her driving record and no background in public safety or transportation whatsoever had been hired for this particular position, and that he planned to find out how this had happened. If the Boston Globe has the story right, that may be a pretty short investigation—it happened the same way Michael Brown happened to FEMA: they were both political appointees. (As you may recall, "Brownie's" pre-FEMA experience was as a commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association, which rendered him, you might say, uniquely qualified to deal with Hurricane Katrina.)

"Given her driving record," said the state's Secretary of Public Safety and Security, failing to note her utter lack of experience, "it is clear that Ms. Burgess should not have been hired as the director of Highway Safety in 2007." The Secretary said Burgess had been assigned to a "different role" within the department; a role that most likely will involve not being in it.