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Big Dig Engineer Fired After Remarks

The state’s transportation secretary has fired a highway supervisor following an investigation into remarks he made after a 110-pound corroded Big Dig light fixture collapsed earlier this year.

Secretary Jeffrey Mullan said Tuesday that district highway supervisor Helmut Ernst no longer works for the agency.

The official reason for the firing is that based on a formal review completed last week, Ernst lacks the leadership the job requires. Ernst was suspended after he told The Boston Globe in a recent interview that he and other engineers “have been trained not to” put safety concerns into writing, citing litigation that arose from the death of a motorist after a Big Dig ceiling panel collapsed in 2006.

Mullan said the article is not the reason he was let go, and the culture Ernst described does not exist.

"I think anyone who has watched the DOT over the last couple of years knows that we’ve made a tremendous effort to be completely transparent," Mullan said.

"I have a lot of respect for Helmut, but these jobs are significant leadership positions and certainly the Highway 6 Division is one of them."

A replacement search has already begun.

Also on Tuesday, Mullan took lawmakers on a tour of the Big Dig tunnels to discuss reports of leaks and metal corrosion. He defended maintenance in the tunnel system.

"I would not say it's broken," Mullan said. "We have extensive maintenance going on regularly, as you would expect in a tunnel of this size."

With reporting from Pippin Ross for WBUR and The Associated Press

This program aired on August 2, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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