Gov. Baker: RMV Scandal, New Hampshire Tragedy ‘A Major Fail’
NEW BEDFORD — Governor Charlie Baker is providing more commentary on the investigation into the records-keeping scandal at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Baker discussed the state agency’s failure to suspend the license of Volodymyr Zhukovsky, a 23-year-old truck driver with multiple out-of-state driving violations, which led to the death of seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire back in June. The Governor made the comments while taking part in the opening ceremonies of the annual Portuguese Feast in New Bedford on Thursday,
The seven bikers were members of Jarheads, a New England motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses. A couple from Lakeville was among those who lost their lives.
A subsequent investigation by state officials discovered that the Registry had piled up thousands of out-of-state notifications of infractions by Massachusetts drivers in boxes.
When asked if his administration felt any level of responsibility for the New Hampshire tragedy, Baker shied away from placing culpability directly on his office, instead saying the tragedy is “something everybody is going to carry.”
Baker has stated that he learned of the backlog on June 25, the same day-Registrar of Motor Vehicles Erin Devaney submitted her resignation.
“When we finally figured out that Connecticut had actually notified Massachusetts and that Massachusetts dropped the ball on suspending Zhukovsky’s license, we came out right away and said, ‘this was a major fail and we’ve got to clean this up and fix it and make it right,’” Baker told WBSM News.
“While, obviously, there’s very little we can do to deal with the horrible pain that’s been suffered by all of those families who lost loved ones, the Registry suspended, I think, over 2,000 licenses over the course of the past several weeks and it’s completely revamping all of its programming associated with how its handling out-of-state notifications and how it notifies other states about infractions here in Massachusetts. So, we all feel terrible about what happened.”
On Tuesday, former Registrar Erin Deveney appeared at an investigative hearing before the state Legislature. Deveney had resigned in June after the RMV admitted it failed to process notification from Connecticut about Zhukovsky being arrested on an OUI charge just over a month before the New Hampshire tragedy.
At the hearing, Deveney said the agency had no policy for taking action against drivers for out-of-state violations until 2016. RMV employees say there had been multiple warnings within the RMV about backlogs of tens of thousands of notices that prompted little or no action.
Zhukovskyy has pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide in connection with the New Hampshire crash.
An outside review by a privately-owned audit firm, Grant Thornton, is expected to be completed by the week of August 12.