Our Highway Safety Chief Has A Horrible Driving Record
In Sheila Burgess, Massachusetts had a state highway safety chief so obviously unqualified for her job that it took only a day after publication of a Boston Globe expose on her driving record for officials to remove her. Burgess is charged with reducing accidents and educating the public about safe driving. After she crashed a state owned vehicle in August, Globe reporter Sean Murphy looked into her driving history. On Sunday, he reported a treasure trove of driving mishaps from the woman charged with preventing driving mishaps:
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.
Only somewhat less troubling is that Burgess didn’t have experience in government administration, transit issues, or public safety when she was hired. What she did have was a lot of experience in Democratic party politics over the years, and a recommendation from US Representative James McGovern, for whom she’d done consulting work, that she might make a good public servant in Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration. Needless to say, the hiring of someone who not only lacks a resume, but in fact exhibits the exact behaviors she’s been hired to curtail, doesn’t sit well with a lot of readers.
Reactions from the piece ranged from words like “disgusting” to, uh, more PG-13 expressions of outrage. It’s darkly comic in a way that should make any elected official in the line of fire very, very nervous. And so, it took only a matter of hours – and on a Sunday no less – for the Patrick administration to announce they would reassign Burgess to another role. Somehow, we’re not sure that’s going to offer much comfort to people who see this as evidence of a systemic problem with the way we choose our public servants. As The Globe’s deputy editorial page editor Dante Ramos tweeted, “Patronage bad enough. Ironic patronage – when political hire uniquely wrong for job – is huge middle finger to public.” Uniquely unqualified is right, and without good local reporting like Murphy’s, there apparently wouldn’t be much of a check on it.