At the time of the crash, Burgess’s license was active but had been flagged for nonrenewal because of failure to pay local excise taxes. After the Globe began making inquiries, the taxes were paid and her license status was cleared.
As highway safety director, Burgess is the Patrick administration’s chief safety officer for drivers. In a recent newsletter mailed to hundreds of police departments statewide, she articulated a clear message on safe driving. “Remember: drive safely, soberly, and distraction-free. And always buckle — every trip, every time,” she wrote last spring.
Burgess manages a staff of about six, and helps parcel out more than $2 million a year in grants to state and local police departments for public awareness programs on safe driving, including money to underwrite overtime for police.
Her resume, which she distributed to staff members, lists her as a former executive director and aide for five years to former Representative J. Joseph Moakley. It says she was Moakley’s campaign manager in 2000.
Her resume cites, among other duties, that she “facilitated all fund-raising and events for the congressman as well as other candidates as required.” Moakley died in May 2001.
As a paid fund-raising consultant, Burgess worked for, in addition to Murray and McGovern, Senator John Kerry, gubernatorial candidate Chris Gabrieli, former Quincy mayor James Sheets, former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Shannon O’Brien, and state Senator Thomas McGee of Lynn, according to her resume.
She lists among her affiliations the “Kerry for President Finance Committee” and the “Shannon O’Brien Finance Committee.”
McGovern was a close confidante and aide to Moakley before being elected to Congress in 1996. McGovern and Murray, both Worcester residents, are close political allies, as are McGovern and Patrick. All are Democrats.
Burgess lists herself as principal of SHB Consulting/Mass Strategy Group. Campaign finance records show Mass Strategy Group was paid $11,414 for fund-raising consulting during Murray’s 2003 campaign for Worcester mayor. (He was first elected mayor in 2001.) The firm was paid $6,000 by Murray’s mayoral campaign committee in 2004. Murray was reelected as mayor in 2005 and ran successfully for lieutenant governor in 2006.
A spokesman for Murray’s campaign said that while Murray has no recollection of Sheila Burgess working as a consultant, he does remember her sister, Coleen, as doing so. Mass Strategy Group lists Coleen Burgess as president of the firm and Sheila Burgess as registered agent, state corporation records show.
Last year, another state employee in a sensitive public safety position was forced to resign after the Globe reported his long record of driving violations. In that case, it was Murray who in 2008 recommended the hiring of the employee, Matthew McLaughlin, as a $60,000-a-year appointee to the Board of Appeals, which hears appeals from drunken drivers who have lost their licenses. McLaughlin’s driving record includes a license suspension for refusing to take a breathalyzer test and six speeding tickets.
Matthew McLaughlin is the son of Michael McLaughlin, the former Chelsea Housing Authority executive director now under federal investigation for apparently using government money intended for fixing-up public housing apartments to jack up his own salary to $360,000 a year. Investigators are also scrutinizing Michael McLaughlin’s involvement in fund-raisers for Murray.