• Mass. Highway Safety Director resigns amid driving record fallout


    BOSTON (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) – Former head of the Massachusetts Highway Safety Division Sheila Burgess has resigned from state government amid fallout regarding her less than desirable driving record.


    Burgess penned a resignation letter to Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan citing her health as the reason she is walking away from her $87,000 position. Her resignation is effective Dec. 31.

    Burgess had been on medical leave since she suffered a head injury in an August crash. She told police she swerved off the road to avoid an oncoming vehicle and wasn't cited. She came under scrutiny earlier this week after it was reported that her driving record included seven accidents, four speeding violations and one failure to wear a seat belt ticket.

    The Boston Globe reported Sunday that Burgess had 34 entries on her driving record since 1982. The status of her driver's license status was "nonrenewable" until Nov. 1 for failure to pay local excise taxes.

    Gov. Deval Patrick said that he would look into giving Burgess another position if she were to return because she was not bad at her job; however, he added that her initial hiring for the highway safety director position was a mistake.

    After hearing of Burgess' resignation, the governor released a statement on Wednesday saying:

     "We have made great effort to make sure our administration is staffed with committed, qualified, and dedicated professions. That is overwhelmingly the case, and I am proud to work with so many talented people. However, we don't always get it right. And when we don't we fix it. While Ms. Burgess has had success in securing millions of dollars in federal funding for Massachusetts and her office has received positive reviews from federal agencies, given her driving background, it was a mistake to hire her for this position.  Her resignation will allow her to focus on her health and allow the department to move forward with its mission."

    Burgess reportedly had no driving issues between the date of her hiring and the Aug. 24 accident.

    Heffernan reiterated the governor's sentiments calling Burgess a solid and dependable employee, but she now has recognized that Burgess could not expect the public's trust.


    It is unclear who gave Burgess the position; however, U.S. Rep. James McGovern did recommend her, but not for any particular position.
    Burgess had no background in public safety, transportation or government administration when she was appointed highway safety director in July 2007. She had worked for two decades in Democratic Party politics as a paid consultant and congressional aide, raising money and advising political candidates.

    FOX 25 reached out to Burgess, but have not yet heard back.

    Burgess' letter to Heffernan read:

    "It has been my pleasure to serve this Administration over the past five years. However, at this time I feel my health must be my first priority, therefore please be advised I will resign my employment with Executive Office Public Safety and Security, effective December 31, 2012."

    Heffernen also released a statement:

    "Today, State Highway Safety Director Shelia Burgess offered her resignation. I have accepted it. She should not have been hired for the position and while she has been a solid and dependable employee, she recognized, and I agree, that she could not expect the public's trust if she were to continue in the position. We wish Ms. Burgess a full recovery and will now turn our attention to moving the Highway Safety Division forward."


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