Mary Beth Heffernan, the state’s outgoing public safety director, made a mistake when she signed on to the hiring of Sheila Burgess as the state’s highway safety director. In the wake of embarrassing headlines, Heffernan acknowledged the obvious: Given a lengthy driving record that included six crashes and several speeding violations, Burgess should never have gotten the job. But standing on its own, the Burgess scandal does not automatically disqualify Heffernan for consideration as a district court judge.
The hiring of Burgess illustrates all that is wrong with patronage and the power of political connections when it comes to obtaining state employment. In the case of Burgess, an unqualified person was placed in a job she did not deserve.