25 Investigates: Breathalyzer boss fired amid inaccurate testing

By: Eric Rasmussen , Erin Smith

Updated:

The Baker administration fired the state’s breathalyzer boss Monday – the same day a scathing, new report revealed “serious errors” which could overturn hundreds of drunken driving cases.

Melissa O’Meara was fired from her position as head of the Office of Alcohol Testing, according to a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

O’Meara’s Monday dismissal comes after Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen pressed the state for answers on Friday about why an investigation into inaccurate breathalyzer tests for suspected drunken drivers had been delayed for weeks.

>>PREVIOUS25 Investigates: State investigation into breathalyzers faces delays

State public safety officials also fired O’Meara as they released an investigation report revealing workers at the Office of Alcohol Testing knew about invalid breathalyzer tests and notified local police departments as early as 2013 – but didn’t tell prosecutors about the problem until two years later. 

The investigation also uncovered O’Meara and her office withheld information from both prosecutors and defense attorneys about breathalyzer testing.

The 126-page report, obtained by 25 Investigates, found the Office of Alcohol Testing “leadership made serious errors of judgment in its responses to court-ordered discovery.”

Last month, 25 Investigates was the first to report about an order to keep some breathalyzers out of service during the state’s investigation – a probe spurred by defense attorneys’ claims that the machines generated false results..

>>PREVIOUS25 Investigates: State orders some breathalyzers pulled out of commission

State Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett said the move to temporarily sideline all breathalyzer machines brought in to the state office for repairs or annual certification was only done out of an abundance of caution.

State officials reported the breathalyzer machines weren’t calibrated properly in the past – leading to some of the problems with the tests that prompted the investigation.

The machines were fixed in 2015 and are now providing accurate results, according to state officials and the investigation report.

>>PREVIOUS: Lawyers say Mass. withheld evidence about breathalyzers

In the wake of Monday’s report, Bennett promised big changes.

He put one of his top deputies – Curtis Wood, undersecretary for forensic science and technology – in charge of cleaning up the office.

In a letter to State Police Colonel Richard McKeon, Bennett said he also plans to hire a retired judge to help oversee reforms at the Office of Alcohol Testing.

It remains to be seen exactly how many drunken driving cases could be affected, but defense attorneys are already challenging some of these cases in court.

Efforts to reach O’Meara Monday night were unsuccessful.

RELATED DOCUMENTS:

Letter from Secretary Bennett to Col. McKeon re OAT

Discovery Practices at the Office of Alcohol Testing

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