Why Hasn’t Anyone Been Held Accountable for Conn. DMV Debacle?

We’ve already been warned: Expect extremely long lines at the state Department of Motor Vehicles after the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend. Well, why should this week be any different? Connecticut drivers have endured lines that are hours long. So how does the DMV shorten the line? By closing offices early. Brilliant! To date, no one has been held accountable for the fiasco that has resulted from a supposed computer update. It’s absolutely unacceptable.

The Shad is far from a computer whiz but from what I’m told there’s absolutely no way a software change-over should wreak such havoc on an agency that is already famous for its slow-moving lines.

When talk surfaced that the DMV was not properly prepared for the number of undocumented immigrants in the state that would apply for drivers’ licenses, the department—headed by former state Sen. Andres Ayala—pulled a Nixonian move and tried to cover it up. They actually told driver school instructors to deny the new license applications were the problem.

Ayala issued an apology for disinformation email telling the Hartford Courant, “Unfortunately … I probably should have looked at it a little bit closer.” Huh? What else does a DMV commissioner do other than run the department and one would think, be in charge of information going out on the department’s behalf?

Just what took the Commissioner Ayala and his people by surprise? The law allowing undocumented immigrants to hold a “drive only” license was passed in 2013. He had two-plus years notice that a flood of new applications was coming. In fact, the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis predicted an increase of 54,000 applications. That was high. There was about 50,000 and the DMV was caught completely unprepared.

With all of this as background, Ayala announced the DMV would be closed for five days in August for a “computer upgrade.” When it reopened, the hours-long waits resumed.

From left, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Gov. Dannel Malloy, DMV Commissioner Andres Ayala.
From left, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Gov. Dannel Malloy, DMV Commissioner Andres Ayala.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, Commissioner Ayala put state residents on notice by advising, “At this point, I can’t give you a prediction as to when things will stabilize,” Ayala told the Courant. “We’re monitoring it and seeing that our front line staff are getting better and better, hence transaction times continue to improve. In no way are we out of the woods yet.”

That last comment is usually reserved for a hospital patient who is critically ill and in danger of death. Perhaps the imagery is exactly correct. The DMV is on life support. We should pull the plug

All of this is sufficient grounds for dismissal of officials involved including Ayala and Lynn Blackwell, the DMV’s division chief for licensing. They didn’t get the job done and the people of the state suffered.

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