BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey would not say whether she is looking into bringing criminal charges against anyone at the Registry of Motor Vehicles in connection with the agency's failure to suspend licenses of drivers charged in other states, but the Democrat on Tuesday labeled the scandal "a serious case of lack of leadership" from Gov. Charlie Baker's administration.
"This is outrageous. It is just shameful what transpired ... at the Registry. I mean, unacceptable to have those papers processed, to not have the issues identified and the resources put in place," Healey said Tuesday on WGBH's "Greater Boston" program. "Obviously there is a hard look at that now and steps, I'm sure, will be taken. But, my God, I think most of us were shocked to learn that this is what was happening within our own Registry."
The RMV has been under fire over systemic failures and dysfunction among management since a Massachusetts driver who should have had his license suspended due to a drunken driving arrest in Connecticut allegedly caused a crash in New Hampshire that killed seven motorcyclists in late June.
Former Registrar Erin Deveney resigned amid the fallout, and an internal investigation launched by interim Registrar Jamey Tesler soon determined that tens of thousands of written alerts from other states about Massachusetts drivers — warning about citations and arrests ranging from drunk driving to speeding — had piled up in a storage room since at least March 2018.
Asked by host Jim Braude whether her office could bring criminal charges related to the agency's failures against anyone at the RMV, she said she is waiting to learn the results of the administration's investigation before deciding how to proceed.
"We'll await the findings of that internal investigation but, boy, what a serious case of lack of leadership, lack of management, lack of accountability that apparently may have contributed to serious and devastating harm," the attorney general said.
Pressed by Braude as to who showed a lack of leadership, Healey said, "the administration." When the host asked if that means from Gov. Charlie Baker on down, Healey said, "Well, ultimately he's responsible but certainly within the RMV terrible mismanagement."
Baker's office declined to respond directly to Healey's comments. The governor last week insisted that he "was first made aware" that his RMV was not reviewing out-of-state violation notices for Bay State drivers on June 25 when Deveney resigned, shortly after the crash.
Some Democrats seemed skeptical of that. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said last week's oversight hearing on the RMV "seemed to be very disturbing to me in terms of what exactly was going on at the registry, and possibly as to the number of people involved, how far up did it go and whatnot."
Baker, in the days following the New Hampshire crash and revelations of tasks left undone at the RMV, said the administration had "a lot of work to do to earn back" the public's trust.
"This failure is completely unacceptable to me and to the residents of the commonwealth, who expect the RMV to do its job and track drivers' records," he said in early July.
The attorney general's office launched an investigation into the trucking company the driver in the New Hampshire crash worked for and that industry at large, Healey said, and has been following the Legislature's attempts to get RMV and administration officials to provide testimony and documents to the Transportation Committee.
"We'll see. As attorney general, my job is to make sure we're doing everything we can to make sure that those who have engaged in acts that are criminal, engaged in acts that cause harm to people are held accountable," Healey said. "I'm not going to make any predictions right now."