Burgess posting was a ‘screw up,’ Patrick says

Says he receives job referrals from media members


HOURS AFTER the Boston Globe reported that the state highway safety director has a long record of accidents and driving infractions, the Patrick administration indicated that Sheila Burgess should not have been hired for that job in 2007 and will be reassigned when she returns to work.

The Globe reported Sunday that Burgess has a driving record that includes seven accidents, four speeding violations, and two failures to stop for a police officer.

During a brief exchange with reporters on Monday, Gov. Deval Patrick called it a “screw-up” that Burgess was placed in the post of director of the Massachusetts Highway Safety Division, and said if she returns to state service she would be reassigned.

“That’s over. What else do you want to know?” Patrick said. “It was a screw-up for her to be in that job with the record she had.”

When a reporter asked if Burgess was a patronage appointee, Patrick said the government hires people with many different types of backgrounds.

“Look, people come to us from all sorts of sources, including you folks in the media, and we review them on the merits and we try to place them if we can and it makes sense and in this case I understand she did a great job in the job she had, but with a record like that she’s not going to have anybody’s confidence in that job, so if she goes back she’ll into a different job,” Patrick said.

Burgess is currently on medical leave after sustaining injuries in a one-car accident in Milton in August when she drove off the road.

“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 issued Sunday night, on the heels of the Globe report.

“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 said. “When Ms. Burgess returns from her current medical leave, she will no longer have any role in highway safety and will be reassigned to a different role within the Executive Office.”

Meet the Author

Matt Murphy

State House News Service
Burgess, listed as an agent of the Mass. Strategy Group run by her sister Coleen Burgess, has done fundraising in the past for US Rep. Jim McGovern. The agency also lists Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray among its former clients.

“Her sister worked for my committee almost 10 years ago. I dealt with Coleen Burgess. I knew who Sheila was and that she had done some work for Jim McGovern, but Colleen Burgess is someone I worked with on the Shannon O’Brien campaign back in 2002 and did some subsequent work for me,” Murray told reporters on Monday.

Asked whether political connections helped her score the safety job despite her lack of experience in the field, Murray said people have been hired into the Patrick administration with various professional backgrounds. “We make referrals every day and by all accounts she was doing a good job,” Murray said.