The corruption at the RMV must end
By Jeffrey T. Kuhner
Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack must go. She and the Registry of Motor Vehicles have blood—American blood—on their hands.
In a shocking press conference, Gov. Charlie Baker was forced to admit that, for over a year, out-of-state notices of drunk driving and other serious driving infractions were outright ignored. They had been piling up in 53 bins in a room at the Quincy headquarters. RMV officials gave the order for tens of thousands of notices—some for drunk driving, others for vehicular homicide or refusing chemical (i.e., drug) testing—to just sit there.
The results were horrific—and deadly. Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, an immigrant from Ukraine on a Green Card, crashed a pick-up truck in Randolph, New Hampshire last month into a group of veteran motorcyclists, killing five Marines, a wife and a girlfriend. The Fallen 7 were part of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, an organization based in Massachusetts of military veterans who love to drive their bikes.
They survived Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq but not MassDOT. Zhukovskyy had multiple arrests on his record, including burglary and heroin/cocaine possession. He also had an OUI. Then in May, several weeks before the accident, he was arrested in Connecticut for another OUI and for refusing to take a chemical test. By law, this should have automatically triggered the revocation of his license. It didn’t. The reason: Despite Connecticut sending multiple electronic and manual paper notifications to the Massachusetts RMV of Zhukovskyy’s serious infractions, the officials there did nothing. Had his commercial driver’s license been revoked, Zhukovskyy would not have been driving that day. Those seven Jarheads would still be alive.
The RMV is guilty of criminal neglect. Yet, instead of holding people accountable and cleaning up the rampant corruption and incompetence at the agency, Baker and Pollack are desperately trying to sweep this scandal under the rug. They offered one scapegoat: Registrar Erin Deveney, who was forced to resign. An internal MassDOT review has now led to the suspension of over 1,100 driver’s licenses and nearly 850 drivers have been suspended.
Which begs the question: How many of these suspended drivers were involved in fatal or severe crashes? Baker and Pollack refuse to say.
Baker has ordered an independent audit of the RMV, which will report its findings in 60 days. The audit, however, is too little too late. First, it will only check for out-of-state infractions of all 5.2 million licenses in Massachusetts. Second, it does nothing to honor and do justice to the Fallen 7. Is one resignation worth seven lives?
The problems at the RMV go much deeper than a bad registrar or several inept officials. It is systemic; it is part of the hackerama slowly eroding and destroying this state. The RMV is full of hacks, whose positions are based on cronyism and nepotism, not competence and expertise. It’s time to clean house. The Quincy officials who ordered and knew about the room full of mail bins must be fired. Upper management, which knew about this criminal neglect and turned a blind eye, need to go as well.
And then there is Pollack. She oversees the RMV (and the broken-down MBTA). In the private sector, such colossal ineptness and neglect would automatically result in the firing of a top executive, whose department was responsible for seven deaths.
However, this is not the case in Massachusetts. Baker says he has “full confidence” in Pollack, and has ordered her to “fix the problems” at the RMV. He should be ashamed of himself. Pollackisthe problem. Asking her to reform the RMV is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house. Either she knew what was going on and did nothing, which means Pollack is guilty of criminal neglect. Or she didn’t know, which means she’s guilty of gross incompetence and managerial laziness. In fact, what does one expect of a woman who spent $100,000 of taxpayer money to renovate her personal work bathroom. She looks upon dead citizens the way she does taxpayers: expedient suckers who exist to serve her and our venal political elites. That Baker refuses to fire her is an insult not only to the memory of the Fallen 7 and their families, but also to the citizens of Massachusetts.
The RMV scandal exposes the failure and rot of the Baker administration. Whether it’s the RMV, the MBTA, the Department of Children and Families, or the State Police—deep-seated corruption remains rampant. It’s as bad (or even worse) as it was under Gov. Deval Patrick. And people continue to die.
Nothing will change until tax-paying, law-abiding citizens demand government transparency and public accountability. Enough is enough.
It’s high time for a “Take Back our State” rally, which will be held this Saturday, July 13, 9:30 am EST at the steps of the state House across from the Boston Common. I will be one of the speakers at the event, demanding justice for the Fallen 7. I’m inviting all decent, concerned citizens to attend. Those dead Marines deserve a lot better than Stephanie Pollack and Charlie Baker. Are you with me?
-Jeffrey T. Kuhner is host of “The Kuhner Report” on WRKO AM-680 in Boston. His daily show airs 6:00-10:00 am EST. He can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org