Officials at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles were warned months ago that notifications about drunk driving and other charges facing Bay State drivers in other states were going ignored, a state auditor testified Tuesday.
Brie-Anne Dwyer, an internal auditor at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, told state lawmakers at an oversight hearing Tuesday that she flagged the growing backlog of out-of-state notifications to top officials at the registry as early as April 2019.
In a memo outlining her preliminary findings, Dwyer recommended that the state's Merit Rating Board — which operates under the umbrella of the RMV — transfer the job of reviewing the notifications to a different unit.
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"While researching in [the RMV computer system], we identified an open queue for [out of state convictions] with 12,829 open tasks," the memo reads, describing the number of notifications received from other states that were not processed.
Testifying before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation, Dwyer said she personally notified former Registrar Erin Deveney of the issue, which allowed hundreds of drivers whose licenses should have been suspended to remain on the road.
According to Dwyer’s memo, RMV officials accepted her recommendation and planned to transfer the task to the RMV’s Driver Control Unit within 60 days, or by June 28, 2019.
"I learned that that work was not prioritized, despite that information being available to Massachusetts," Deveney said during the hearing. "That's what I found to be an unacceptable lapse in the process."
Lawmakers are probing lapses at the RMV that were exposed by a deadly June 21 crash in Randolph, New Hampshire. Seven members of a New England motorcycle club were killed when a truck pulling a car hauler crashed into the group.
The man driving the truck was charged in May with drunk driving in Connecticut, and his license should have been suspended, according to the RMV. State officials failed to act on two notifications they received from Connecticut about the May arrest.
The registry has since issued more than 1,500 suspensions to drivers facing charges out of state after reviewing its backlog of notices.
Committee member asks Dwyer if the RMV had taken her recommendations sooner - would they have suspended the license of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy before the fatal NH Crash? “It’s possible,” she says. pic.twitter.com/EHRlZTa9P4— Abbey Niezgoda NBC10 Boston (@AbbeyNBCBoston) July 30, 2019
In separate testimony Tuesday, an official from the RMV’s Driver Control Unit testified that he also flagged the issue as far back as September 2016.
At that time, the registry faced a backlog of roughly 10,000 unprocessed notifications, said Keith Constantino, director of the unit. Constantino said he discovered the RMV had 72 boxes of unprocessed notifications in its possession. Constantino recommended shifting responsibility for handling the notifications to the Merit Rating Board, he said.
Constantino said he presented his position to a project management group, which took it under consideration.
“At that time they were just listening to the recommendation that was presented,” he said.