Connecticut transportation officials say they didn’t do anything wrong in how they told their Massachusetts counterparts about the May drunk driving arrest of a man now charged with killing seven motorcyclists in a New Hampshire crash on Friday.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy’s refusal to take an alcohol test when he was stopped by police in Connecticut on May 11 should have resulted in an automatic suspension of his commercial driver’s license, or CDL.
But Massachusetts officials say Connecticut didn’t enter enough information about the arrest to trigger the automated suspension through a federal database, and then nobody at the Massachusetts RMV entered the suspension manually until almost a month later, after seven people were killed. That led to the resignation of RMV registrar Erin Devaney on Tuesday.
But Massachusetts officials also seemed to blame Connecticut. If Connecticut had done it right, Massachusetts officials insinuated, there wouldn’t have needed to be manual entry.
“The online communication sent by Connecticut on May 29 did not contain sufficient information to automatically input Zhukovskyy’s OUI into his MA driving record and therefore did not automatically trigger the 7-day notification process for his non-commercial license suspension in accordance with Massachusetts law,” a press release Tuesday stated.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Wednesday the information made available from Connecticut was "not consistent" with the guidelines to trigger an automatic suspension.
Connecticut officials dispute that they entered anything wrong. Tony Guerrera, deputy superintendent of the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, said they submitted the information about the arrest through a federal information sharing system on May 29, 18 days after Zhukovskyy’s arrest. Connecticut DMV officials received confirmation that Massachusetts got the information that day, he said.
“I’m just a little perplexed of what’s going on here,” Guerrera told Connecticut Public Radio. “All the documentation, all the electronic verification, shows that Massachusetts did get this information and it was coded [correctly], which shows that he did not submit to an alcohol test, therefore is disqualified from a CDL.”
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators backed that up, with spokeswoman Claire Jeffrey telling WBUR in an email, "Connecticut did what it was supposed to do to trigger a suspension."
In an email, MassDOT spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard repeated that Massachusetts should have acted on the information from Connecticut, but didn’t say how Connecticut erred in entering the data.
Zhukovskyy, 23, pleaded not guilty to seven counts of negligent homicide, accused of driving the transport rig across the center line and into a pack of motorcyclists in Randolph, New Hampshire. He remains behind bars.
In addition to the May drunken driving arrest in Connecticut, he also was arrested in Westfield, Massachusetts, in 2013. His license was suspended and he attended an alcohol education program.
Zhukovskyy, who lives in West Springfield, Massachusetts, is a Ukrainian national and U.S. green card holder. Immigration officials have issued a detainer, requesting New Hampshire officials hold him until he can be taken into federal custody, since his criminal history will likely make him deportable.