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Report Details Why Acting Highway Commissioner Resigned

Saying there was a lapse in internal communication at the Department of Transportation, the Patrick administration on Friday accepted the resignation of the acting Highway administrator.

Frank Tramontozzi's resignation comes after a 110-pound Big Dig tunnel light fixture fell last month due to corrosion.

Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan's office has been under fire after it was learned the office did not notify the governor and the public about the incident until last week. Mullan himself admitted he was not notified about the fallen fixture for weeks.

"At the time I didn't believe that the internal breakdown in communication was an important matter that the public would be interested in, and clearly they are interested in it," Mullan said Friday. "I think the public is more interested in having its leaders take responsibility, which is what I've been trying to do."

A report by Robert Horacek, deputy general counsel of the Department of Transportation, to Secretary Mullan concludes that engineers told Tramontozzi about the fallen light on Feb. 9, but he did not report the problem to Mullan until March 8.

Three engineers said the Highway director for District 6, Helmut Ernst, called Tramontozzi and informed him about the fallen light on Feb. 9, but Tramontozzi denied receiving the call. A check of cellphone records later showed that Ernst had, in fact, called Tramontozzi.

Mullan declined to say whether he considered offering his own resignation.

"From top to bottom, we have mismanaged communication around the failed light fixture," he said. "That falls on me. We should have done a better job and I should have done a better job."

Tramontozzi had been acting administrator for less than a month. He'll be replaced by Frank DePaolo, who comes over from the MBTA.

Mullan says 98 percent of the fixtures have been inspected and the tunnels are safe.

With additional reporting from The Associated Press.

-- Here's the Transportation memo (on Scribd):

http://www.scribd.com/doc/51568945/Transportation-Dept-Memo-On-Light-Fixture-Incident

Earlier:

This program aired on March 25, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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