Joey Garrison, USA TODAYPublished 1:42 p.m. ET July 2, 2019 | Updated 5:14 p.m. ET July 2, 2019 http://www.usatoday.com/staff/53991/joey-garrison/
BOSTON — Tens of thousands of paper notices detailing traffic infractions that Massachusetts drivers compiled in other states have been sitting untouched in 53 bins at a state facility in Quincy, a preliminary review by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has found.
Among them: a May 11 report of a drunken-driving violation in Connecticut accumulated by Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, a truck driver from West Springfield, Massachusetts.
Connecticut notified the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles about Zhukovskyy’s incident both electronically and through a mailed notice that would have got into one of the bins, the report released Monday says. Under state law, Zhukovskyy’s commercial driver’s license should have been immediately terminated and his right to drive a passenger vehicle suspended.
Instead, six weeks later – and still licensed by the state despite the violation –Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Massachusetts, struck a group of motorcyclists June 21 after crossing a double-yellow line on a rural highway in Lancaster, New Hampshire, with his truck and trailer. Seven people died; he’s pleaded not guilty to seven counts of vehicular homicide.
The alarming report, sparked by the horrific crash in New Hampshire and outlined in a Monday memo, sheds new light on a colossal breakdown in Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration’s handling of out-of-state traffic violations. The head of the Massachusetts RMV, Erin Deveney, resigned last week amid the fallout.
“This failure is completely unacceptable to me, to the residents of the commonwealth who expect the RMV to do its job and track drivers’ records,” Baker, a Republican, said at a Monday news conference alongside Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.
he bins were discovered last Wednesday. “For reasons that have not yet been determined,” the report found, staff of the Merit Rating Board in Quincy in March 2018 stopped processing out-of-state violations and instead started putting them in the bins, which were sorted by month.
For the past five days, RMV officials have been systematically looking up the drivers whose mailed out-of-state notifications hadn’t been processed, the report says.
As of Monday, they had processed 655 new license suspensions – all related to alcohol-related violations – spanning 546 unique individuals. More are expected as the sorting continues ahead of the Fourth of July.
Zhukovskyy has a disturbing record of drug- and traffic-related arrests in six states. The most recent prior to the New Hampshire crash occurred May 11,when he was arrested in a Walmart parking lot in East Windsor, Connecticut, after he refused a chemical test.
In addition to the failures with notifications from other states, the Massachusetts RMV also had a more specific lapse with its handling of commercial driver’s licenses, the review found.
Connecticut provided an electronic notice to Massachusetts on May 29 about Zhukovskyy’s arrest, but it was not processed because of the way the Massachusetts RMV’s system for commercial driver’s licenses is programmed, according to the new report.
Compounding the problem: Connecticut included a future effective date of the suspension rather than the date he refused the chemical test.
The failure for the violation to be electronically reported should have triggered RMV officials to manually report the May 11 incident, the report says. But no personnel had been assigned the task of reviewing notifications that weren’t processed electronically, including Zhukovskyy’s.
MassDot and RMV officials worked through last weekend to identify unprocessed commercial driver’s licenses notices that require manual reviews. They discovered 365 notices in the backlog, but they say 353 were duplicates. The report say only three were serious offenses, and only Zhukovskyy required an automatic suspension.
MassDot’s memo says that Massachusetts officials have fixed the coding error so that a manual review will no longer be needed and is conducting an “end-to-end review” of all electronic processes for commercial driver’s licenses.
Connecticut’s written notification to Massachusetts about Zhukovskyy’s May 11 arrest was collected May 30, the review found.
In September 2016, Massachusetts changed agencies responsible for handling out-of-state notifications, putting the Merit Rating Board in charge instead of the Driver Control Unit. An antiquated computer program for the handling of notifications was replaced with a new program in March 2018 – the same month the Merit Rating Board stopped processing notifications that were mailed in from other states.
MassDot intends to hire an audit firm to review the process for collecting out-of-state notifications, according to state officials. The department “out of an abundance of caution” also plans to compare Massachusetts’ 5.2 million driver’s license records against the National Driver Registry, which provides a database of driving and traffic infractions.
The seven victims of the June 21 crash were members of Marine Jarheads MC, a motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses. They were en route to a nearby veterans fundraiser. Memorial services for some of the victims took place over the weekend.
Contributing: Associated Press
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.