Two Years Later: Yell Loud Enough, And State Gov't Might Pay Attention

Bmvlogo It took two years and a federal lawsuit, but Gary residents are finally getting a full-service license branch back in their community:

"The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles has reversed course on one of the most contentious actions of former Commissioner Joel Silverman and will again operate a full-service license branch in Gary starting this spring.

"'We just say, 'Kumbaya,'' said state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, as he stood shoulder to shoulder with current BMV chief Ron Stiver on Broadway on Friday.

"'Without a doubt, we are happy we will have a full-service branch at the largest city in the region.'"

Unfair Advantage? BMV Branch Shares Space, Workers With Insurance Agency

BmvlogoAnyone else see a potential conflict here?

"In an unexpected twist of fate, the Montpelier Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch was shut down as a cost-cutting measure, but was later reborn as a full-time branch.

"As the result of one of Gov. Mitch Daniels' early money-saving programs and the efforts of a local businessman, Montpelier ended up with a 40-hour a week branch instead of the two-days-a-week service it used to have.

"Years ago BMV cut the local branch's availability from full time down to two days a week, Tuesday and Friday. Then the governor's program ended even that limited service in July 2005.

"Later, local insurance agent David Neff offered the BMV space in his office, agreeing to pick up the tab for rent, utilities, an assistant, even a copy machine, and to keep that office open two days each week. In return, he would receive $5 per transaction.

"'Nobody had done this before,' Neff said. 'I went to Indianapolis with (State Rep.) Tim Harris and spoke with then-Commissioner Joel Silverman and a couple of his top people to work out the details.'

"That was in the fall of 2005.

"Everyone thought the new office would open in January 2006. However, the two sides could not agree to terms. BMV was demanding more from Neff than he could justify.

"The two sides eventually agreed to a contract and to try it for one year. The branch opened in Neff's office last November.

"While there are still bugs to be worked out, Neff said he is already prepared to sign a three-year extension.

"Neff has two cross-trained employees that can work in his insurance agency when BMV business is slow. That is what makes it possible for him to keep the branch open five days a week, which gives the community more service than it has had in years."

Fix The Glitch: Saving Silverman Cost $6 Million, More Than A Year

BmvlogoCleaning up after dim-witted corporate goofball former Bureau of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Joel Silverman has been a time-consuming and expensive affair, according to this update from the Star:

"The majority of problems created by the BMV's new computer system should be resolved by year's end, officials said today.

"There were more than 2,500 problems and changes needed in the sytem after the conversion. Eighty percent have been addressed, BMV Commissioner Ron Stiver said. Average wait times continue to fall and most of the problems in registrations are no longer an issue, he said.

"The fixes have cost nearly $6 million. The contract initially was for $32 million, he said.

"Stiver's presentation came just days before the one-year anniversary of a botched, $34 million computer system upgrade that threw license branch operations into disarray for weeks and left thousands of customers fuming over long lines and having to make multiple visits to complete basic transactions."

Lost In The Fray: BMV Still Coping With Problems From Last Year's Overhaul

BmvlogoThe Bureau of Motor Vehicles apparently is still feeling the effects of last year's problem-riddled computer system upgrade and other assorted administrative woes.

One TDW reader writes to say that he received his motor vehicle registration renewal form in the mail, but the BMV never sent out a renewal notice for his personal watercraft. When he inquired about the problem, the BMV told him that they're still dealing with information lost during the technology transfer. He was told to bring his registration into a branch so an employee could re-enter the registration into the system.

A minor inconvenience in the whole scheme of things, but one more sign of the times under this administration.

Is anyone else still having BMV-related issues?

Holding Pattern: More BMV Apologies For Months Of Late Renewal Notices

Bmvlogo_45The Bureau of Motor Vehicles is getting really good at this apologizing to its customers thing, which is a marked improvement over Joel "Perfect Is Absolutely An Adjective You Can Use In Conjunction With My Title" Silverman's way of running things. Still, it'd be nice if they could keep the trains running on time.

"The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is apologizing to customers for computer-related delays in mailing license plate renewal courtesy notices, a spokesman said Thursday.

"Greg Cook said he didn't know how long it would take before the agency could meet its goal of getting notices to customers 30 to 45 days before their expiration dates.

"'We definitely strive to meet an earlier internal timeline,' he said. 'We obviously apologize for any delays.'

"The BMV is running behind because it still is cleaning up customer data in its new computer system to ensure its records are accurate, Cook said.

"'We're continuing to diligently review customer data,' he said, adding that the process of merging different databases has proven 'challenging.'

"The agency switched to a new computer system in July as part of a $32 million upgrade, the first in about 20 years. But glitches immediately left customers with problems, including long waits at license branches."

BMV Progress, Please: It's Time For The Backup Agency Head To Show Results

Thumbdown_3Apologies for the lack of updates yesterday; the TDWs were working hard to pretty up a house. So, what's been going on in the world?

First off, the Lafayette Journal and Courier wants the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to shape up. For real. And it looks like they're not buying those "legacy of neglect" talking points. No more blame game, Guv. Your second-string players need to start moving the ball forward.

"Problems continue to plague the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which apparently can't keep proper track of its finances and the amount of cash it has on hand.

"An audit by the State Board of Accounts, which oversees the books of state and local governments, has identified a number of deficiencies in the agency's record keeping.

"Last summer the BMV spent $32 million to upgrade its computer system. Yet technical problems from the upgrade resulted in the bureau's inability to service customers promptly. Hoosiers waited in line for hours at some branches. In September, former BMV Commissioner Joel Silverman resigned.

"It's encouraging -- and predictable -- that the new BMV Commissioner, Ronald Stiver, has promised the agency will swiftly address the problems identified in the audit released last week. Lawmakers should make sure that he follows through.

"He should hold accountable BMV employees responsible for what he calls the 'chronic deficiencies,' that have repeatedly appeared in previous audit reports.

"That's taxpayer money that is unaccounted for - or at least poorly accounted for. While it's encouraging that the State Board of Accounts has given Stiver specific information on these fiscal disparities, the real test will be what happens six months from now."

The Fraud Squad: More Details Emerge About Bureau Of Motor Vehicles Audit

Bmvlogo_43The Indy Star provides more details about a recent Bureau of Motor Vehicles audit showing that the potential for fraud still exists within the agency, despite the Guv having sprinkled Magic Fraud-B-Gone Dust all over the place. Bonus: Guberflack Jane Jankowski can't resist taking a whack at the days of yore.

In a sick sort of way, you've got to admire this administration. They've developed a really good system of tearing down and selling off. It's just a shame that they're doing it at our expense.

"Forgotten bank accounts. Discrepancies in accounting ledgers. Disregard for basic contracting rules.

"State auditors found those and dozens of other record-keeping problems at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, deficiencies that resulted in errors in tax payments to local jurisdictions and mistakes in the tracking of cash transactions at license branches.

"The inadequate safeguards leave the agency -- responsible for more than $900 million in transactions in fiscal 2006 -- vulnerable to fraud and malfeasance, according to the State Board of Accounts audit.

"Sen. Timothy S. Lanane, D-Anderson, characterized the audit's findings as 'alarming' and called on state and local prosecutors to make sure no crimes had occurred.

"'The clerk-treasurers of the smallest towns are required to keep records of every penny that comes into their protection,' Lanane said. 'Those same principles should apply to the BMV. We need to get to the bottom of that.'

"BMV Commissioner Ron Stiver said there is no evidence that any fraud or wrongdoing took place or that any money was missing from state accounts."

Except for this. And this.

Fraud Alert: New Audit Shows BMV Remains Vulnerable To Shady Doings

Bmvlogo_42WISH-TV got its hands on a recent audit that says the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is vulnerable to fraud. Hold up. Surely they must be referring to the old regime. After all, the Guv promised Hoosiers a fraud-free administration and free taffy on Thursdays during the campaign. But wait. The new audit runs through June 2006, which covers the tenure of Republican Joel Silverman, rust-tongued BMV manager extraordinaire. This simply cannot be. What do we do? State Sen. Jim Merritt to the rescue!

"For years I-Team 8 has served as your watchdog when it comes to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. And now I-Team is one of the few that has a copy of an audit done on the BMV that illustrates just how vulnerable that agency is to fraud.

"The State Board of Accounts' report on the Bureau of Motor Vehicles covers Mar. 2004 through Jun. 2006 and two commissioners: Mary Deprez and Joel Silverman. The audit reveals a repeated lack of basic business functions, inadequate internal control and poor record keeping.

"An audit is rarely simple, but simply put, while you and I might be trying to keep a balanced checkbook, according to the State Board of Accounts, the BMV wasn't doing that and it deals with hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions.

"The state audit says the non-use or improper use of cash books would allow conditions for fraud to occur. State Senator Jim Merritt said he has spent years working to correct problems related to BMV customer service and maybe it is time to direct attention inward.

"'As a lawmaker you have to hold some accountability,' I-Team 8 said.

"'I think so. I'll read this report in depth. If legislation is needed to push along some reforms for the inner accounting procedures of the BMV working the Daniels Administration, we will do that,' Merritt said.

"The audit also reveals the computer upgrade that created long lines at license branches does not provide accounting information. And the company which sold the system to the state received an additional payment of $2.3 million and there is no agreement or approval for that."

Round And Round: Exodus Of Guv's Staff Brings Up Revolving Door Policy

Revolvingdoor_1 Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette takes a look at the state's new revolving door ethics rule in light of the myriad folks who keep bailing out of the Guv's administration. TDW does find it somewhat ironic that a former Daniels staffer would take a whack at prior administrations for not having a revolving door policy when it doesn't appear that the policy is holding up members of the current administration in the slightest.

"Key executive staffers and agency heads have been resigning at an increased rate in recent months, leaving Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration and heading back to the private sector nearly two years into the governor’s tenure.

"The departures include internal public policy advisers, leaders of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Department of Natural Resources, and the governor’s chief of staff and communications director.

"And state ethics laws sometimes prohibit some lobbying activities and institute other post-employment restrictions.

"'I don't see it as a big deal. The governor is very clear that he wanted to have the highest ethical standards for his administrations,' said Jason Barclay, who served as Daniels’ special counsel and policy director for public safety until July. 'It’s a standard part of doing business these days both in the public and private sector.'

"When Daniels took office in January 2005 he didn’t think the ethics rules were tough enough and his administration instituted several changes – with help from the legislature.

"Barclay helped rewrite some of the rules, saying he reviewed post-employment restrictions in other states and drafted similar ones for Indiana.

"'It's another example of the state being woefully behind in its ethical standards when others have been abiding by them,' he said.

"Daniels initially proposed a one-year prohibition on any lobbying for those who left the executive branch, but legislators watered down the law so staffers could immediately lobby the legislative branch but not the executive.

"Individuals working in state government who negotiate or administer contracts, make regulatory or licensing decisions or are also bound by additional state rules, said Laura Forest, director of the Indiana State Ethics Commission.

"Barclay and Harry Gonso, recently departed chief of staff and senior counsel, both recognized possible limitations and sought a formal advisory opinion from the ethics commission on their new employment.

"'My advice would always be to seek an advisory opinion,' Forest said. 'It's preventative, free legal advice. It’s a great service we love to do. It’s our bread and butter.'

"Plus, it could avoid a range of penalties in the future, from the canceling of a contract to civil fines, reprimands and being barred from future state employment. If the activity was egregious enough, there might also be criminal sanctions.

"For Barclay and Gonso – both lawyers – seeking the opinion made sense."

ID For Sale: Turns Out, Running The BMV Remains Harder Than It Looks

Bmvlogo_1And now, ladies and germs, it's time for a little Name-That-Quotable-Candidate action. Here's your selection du jour: "The Bureau of Motor Vehicles became a shopping mart for illegal aliens seeking phony identification."

Drum roll, please.

That's right, contestants. If you guessed that that was Mitch Daniels griping about Democratic leadership of state agencies on the campaign trail (Indianapolis Star, Sept. 29, 2004), you get a prize. It won't be a very good prize. Do you like unscented votive candles? We still have 1,300 or so left from the wedding. Great for cocktail parties or ritualistic ceremonies.

Anyway, back to the quote. Everyone remembers how the Guv used the BMV as a shining example of ditch-driven government, right? How everything was going to be awesome under his administration? How state employees would just magically follow his lead and bow to his every...

Hang on. Wait a second. What's this on the Associated Press wire?

"A Bureau of Motor Vehicles worker faces charges that she sold fraudulent state identification cards to illegal immigrants.

"Julian Marie Sanchez, 28, was released on bond Monday from St. Joseph County Jail, where she had been held since her arrest last week on bribery charges. A court hearing was scheduled for Nov. 27 in St. Joseph Superior Court.

"Authorities said Sanchez acknowledged taking money for bogus state IDs, usually $100 to $200.

"St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak said none of the people accused of paying for IDs have been charged, but they remained under investigation."

So many snarky retorts. So little time.

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