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Amorello loses license, says he’s looking ahead

Ex-turnpike chief admits mistakes

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By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / December 1, 2010

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HAVERHILL — Moments after stepping out of a courtroom in which he admitted to drunken driving and was ordered to relinquish his license yesterday, former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew Amorello said he is focused on getting his life back together.

“It’s going to be with me for the rest of my life that I did something bad, wrong,’’ Amorello said after a hearing in Haverhill District Court. “I’ve got a son that I have to talk with about this. I feel awful, and I’ll take my punishment and never, ever, ever be in one of these buildings again.’’

Amorello, 52, of Wenham, was arrested at 2:15 a.m. on Aug. 8 on River Street in Haverhill after his car struck a couple of parked vehicles and he continued driving a short distance before he pulled over, according to police. No injuries were reported and Amorello, who was alone in the car, was taken into custody and posted bail that morning.

In admitting to the facts of the case, Amorello agreed the prosecution had enough evidence to win a guilty verdict. Two charges, driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, were continued without a finding. If Amorello stays out of trouble for a year, the charges will be dismissed. A third charge, for leaving the scene, was dismissed yesterday. He was also ordered to participate in alcohol education.

Amorello lost his license for 180 days for refusing to take a breathalyzer test on the night of his arrest. At the earliest, that penalty would expire by the first week of February. With an additional 45 day loss of license imposed yesterday, to begin after the 180 days, his privileges could be reinstated by the end of March.

“I want to close this chapter of my life and start moving forward and will do that with the love and support of my family and my friends,’’ Amorello said. “It’s been a difficult time and time to get up and dust myself off and get back to being Matt Amorello.’’

The drunken driving incident was the latest in a series of personal and professional setbacks for Amorello, a former state senator and state Highway Department commissioner who was appointed chairman of the Turnpike Authority in 2002. He headed the Big Dig project for four years but resigned from the $223,000 a year job in August 2006, a month after a woman was killed in the collapse of a section of tunnel ceiling.

Amorello’s wife of 12 years divorced him in 2008, the same year he appeared before the State Ethics Commission to answer charges that he violated conflict of interest laws by changing sick leave policy that would affect him. He was later fined $2,000. Earlier this year, he lost a home to foreclosure.

Friends and former associates have said that he has had trouble finding work, but yesterday Amorello said that he is employed. He declined to say where.

Amorello becomes eligible for a state pension, estimated to be more than $40,000 annually, plus health care coverage, when he turns 55, based on eight years of service as a state senator and seven years as a transportation official. His drunken driving case is not likely to affect his eligibility for the pension, since his arrest was outside the scope of his former position.

John M. Moscardelli, a former turnpike board member, said yesterday in a telephone interview that Amorello has the capacity, and the contacts, to recover. “He’s always had an upbeat, positive attitude, and is a pleasure to be around. How quickly can he put all this behind him depends on how much help he can get,’’ Moscardelli said. “He’s got the ability and the contacts; and the passage of time can help heal a lot of things. I’ve always liked Matt. It was great to work with him.’’

Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com