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Mass. RMV Ignored Tens Of Thousands Of Notices About Driver Violations

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A deadly crash in New Hampshire has exposed a bureaucratic failure at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. 

For 15 months, the Registry of Motor Vehicles did not process notifications that Massachusetts-licensed drivers had been charged with offenses in other states – including serious infractions such as drunken driving that should have triggered a license suspension.

 Notices that were mailed to the registry apparently went unread and were stacked in mail bins and stored in a room at an office in Quincy, according to initial findings of a still on-going review of the RMV’s state-to-state data sharing process.

 Tens of thousands of notifications dating back to March 2018 that were discovered in 53 bins are now being reviewed by Registry personnel working around the clock and as a result more than 500 driver’s licenses have been suspended as of Monday, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

It is unknown at this point how many notifications were missed that should have resulted in license suspensions months ago.

At a State House news conference Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker reacted to the stunning bureaucratic breakdown at the Registry.

" This failure is completely unacceptable to me and the residents of the Commonwealth who expect the RMV to do its job and track drivers' records," said Baker.

The review of the Registry’s handling of notifications from other states was prompted by the case of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy.  The 23-year-old West Springfield man is charged with seven counts of negligent homicide after allegedly driving a pickup truck towing a car carrier into a group of motorcycle riders, killing seven, in Randolph, New Hampshire last month.

Six weeks before the New Hampshire crash, Zhukovskyy was charged in Connecticut with operating under the influence and refusing to take a chemical test, but his Massachusetts commercial drivers license was not suspended.

" I am deeply distressed about what happened to those seven people, their families, and friends, " said Baker speaking with reporters in Springfield earlier on Monday.

" The revelation that there was a breakdown in the RMV's ability to collect information from Connecticut that would have denied the license of that driver just makes this thing worse," said Baker.

Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said a flaw was discovered in an automated system where information about Zhukovskyy’s arrest in Connecticut had been reported.

" We have re-coded the system to avoid the problem that occured," said Pollack.

Connecticut officials also mailed a report about Zhukovskyy to the Massachusetts RMV. It was during the search for that document last week that officials discovered the tens of thousands of unprocessed out-of-state notices.

What is still unknown, according to Pollack, is why in March 2018 did the RMV suddenly stop processing the paper notifications sent in by other states.

"We have changed our internal processes so that going forward, as of the end of last week, we are handling both electronic and paper notifications for both regular drivers license and commercial drivers licenses appropriately," said Pollack.  " Our focus is now on working through the backlog of unprocessed notifications as expeditiously but carefully as possible to ensure the public safety."

The head of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, Erin Deveney, resigned last week.  At Monday’s State House news conference, Pollack was asked if she plans to remain.

"The governor has asked me to fix this and I am going to fix  it," said Pollack.

MassDOT plans to hire an independent auditor to review the steps being taken to correct the problems found at the RMV.

Both House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka said Monday it was premature for the legislature to hold oversight hearings on the RMV’s failures.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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