Sheila Burgess, the director of the Massachusetts Highway Safety Division, was relieved of her duties yesterday after her lengthy driving record was made public.
Burgess, 48, who has held her position since 2007, lost her job after her driving record was published by the Boston Globe. During the last 30 years, Burgess has been involved in seven accidents, had four speeding violations and a conviction for failure to wear a seat belt. It was also reported that her driver's license status was "nonrenewable" up to Nov. 1 because she failed to pay local excise taxes. The taxes have since been paid.
According to the government of Massachusetts website, the purpose of the Highway Safety Division is to "facilitate the development and implementation of policies, programs and partnerships to help reduce fatalities, injuries and economic losses from motor vehicle crashes on Massachusetts roadways." One of the department's initiatives is to try and get drivers to wear their seat belts.
But alas, Burgess was not around when she was fired. She's been on medical leave since late August after suffering head injuries in, yep, you guessed it, a car accident. According to Burgess she crashed into a boulder after swerving off the road to avoid another vehicle. No charges arose from that incident.
After the driving record of the $87,000 a year director was published, the Boston Herald reported Mary Heffernan, the Secretary of Public Safety and Security, issued a statement that read, "Given her driving record, it is clear that Ms. Burgess should not have been hired as director of Highway Safety in 2007. 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 director of Highway Safety going forward."
When Burgess was appointed to her position she had no experience in highway safety. She was however, active with the Democratic Party in Massachusetts and had previously worked for Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Sen. John Kerry. She also acted as a consultant for U.S. Representative James McGovern who recommended her for a patronage position.
Gov. Deval Patrick was not pleased after learning about Burgess' driving history. He told NECN, "Yeah they're new to me and I'm going to get to the bottom of it. I'm not happy."
When she finishes her medical leave, Burgess will be offered another position within the Highway Safety department.