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Top registry official fired after fatal motorcycle accident

August 20, 2019

BOSTON (AP) — The director of the state agency that stopped processing alerts from other states about Massachusetts drivers who had broken traffic laws has been fired.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles’ Merit Rating Board voted Tuesday to fire Thomas Bowes as director of the rating agency. Troubles at the RMV were exposed after a June crash that killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire.

The registry had been storing notifications of out-of-state violations since March 2018 in bins at registry headquarters instead of acting on them.

Acting Registrar of Motor Vehicles Jamey Tesler, who serves as chair of the Merit Rating Board, said the agency needs new leadership.

Bowes didn’t comment after the vote. His attorney, Leonard Kesten, suggested he was being scapegoated for wider problems at the registry.

“A lot of people had to make a lot of mistakes for this to happen,” Kesten said. “To throw this man out at age 55, abruptly, it’s unfortunate.”

Bowes is the second official at the registry to leave or be forced out in the wake of the accident. Erin Deveney, the former registrar, resigned days after the crash.

Before the deadly June crash that prompted the review, Connecticut officials had twice alerted Massachusetts about a drunken driving arrest against Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, the commercial truck driver from Massachusetts who was behind the wheel. Zhukovskyy has pleaded not guilty.

Despite the notification from Connecticut, Massachusetts failed to act to suspend his license.

As part of an ongoing review of the RMV, the registry last week suspended the licenses of another 869 drivers. The suspensions announced Thursday were in addition to the more than 1,600 people in Massachusetts who had already had their licenses suspended.

In July, Bowes testified before state lawmakers that his unit lacked sufficient staffing to properly deal with the backlog, and that after glitches developed in a new registry software program he was instructed by Deveney in March 2018 to put aside the out-of-state notices and concentrate on processing of in-state violations.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has said he did not learn of the registry’s problems processing notifications sent by other states until after the crash.

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