Former Mass. highway safety director Burgess resigns after revelations about driving record
Sheila Burgess, the former state highway safety director, resigned as a state employee late today, three days after the Globe revealed that her driving record included seven motor vehicle crashes, four speeding violations and various other infractions.
Burgess, a former Democratic Party fund-raising consultant, has been out on medical leave since Aug. 24, when she crashed in a state-owned vehicle in Milton.
“I feel my health must be my first priority,” wrote Burgess in her resignation letter.
Her resignation is effective Dec. 31. Previously, the Patrick administration had said she was being removed from her position as safety director, but would remain a state employee.
“Today, State Highway Safety Director Shelia Burgess offered her resignation. I have accepted it,” Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan said. “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.”
Burgess’s record also included failures to stop for a police officer, failure to stay in her lane, driving without registration or license in possession, and driving without wearing a seat belt, the Globe reported Sunday.
Nabbed for speeding in New Hampshire in 1999, she failed to show up at her hearing, records show. Until Nov. 1, her license was on nonrenewal status for failure to pay local excise taxes. There are 34 entries on her driving record, dating back to 1982.
As director of the Massachusetts Highway Safety Division, Burgess’s mission was to reduce accidents by promoting good driving practices. She oversaw public campaigns on the dangers of speeding, texting while driving, driving while impaired, and failing to wear a seat belt, among other hazards.
Burgess’s August crash occurred as she was driving a state vehicle during work hours. At 1:16 on a sunny summer afternoon, her car veered off the road in the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton and slammed into a rock outcropping, a State Police report says.
Burgess was appointed to her $87,000-a-year position in July 2007, without any background in public safety, transportation, or government administration. Her experience was in Democratic Party politics. For almost two decades as a paid consultant and congressional aide, she had raised money and advised candidates for public office, including — according to her resume — Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, who had taken office six months earlier as part of the new Patrick administration, the Globe reported.Sean P. Murphy can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @spmurphyboston.