Lawmaker presses for answers after WBTV investigation into secret DMV office

North Carolina's secret DMV
Published: Aug. 28, 2018 at 11:16 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2018 at 10:08 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina State Representative Scott Stone (R-Mecklenburg) is demanding answers from leaders of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles and the North Carolina Department of Transportation after a WBTV investigation uncovered a secret driver's license office available only to certain state employees.

Stone, who sits on the House Transportation Committee, sent a letter on Tuesday, the same day the WBTV investigation aired, to DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup asking about the secret driver's license office his agency has operated for one week each month since January.

The office was operated by appointment only and select state employees were invited to sign up for an appointment.

A list of employees who signed up to get a license at the office in August shows senior staff from the office of Governor Roy Cooper, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and employees at NCDOT took advantage of the opportunity.

Document: Read the letter sent by Rep. Scott Stone

Appointments were scheduled in 20-minute increments.

"While North Carolinians across the state are spending hours waiting for service at other facilities, it appears that special invitations were sent to senior state employees for speedy, 20-minute appointments," Stone's letter to Jessup read.

"Having a separate set of rules and privileges for a special few state employees is an affront to the taxpayer's who pay their salaries," the letter continued.

Stone asked Jessup for an explanation as to why the secret driver's license office was in operating and, more broadly, why was being done to reduce the long lines that have popped up this summer at DMV offices across the state.

On Tuesday, in response to WBTV's story, the DMV issued a press release saying the secret office operated out of its headquarters was part of a mobile program where an RV visited locations across the state for people to obtain ID's.

But documents provided by a DMV spokesman didn't include any mention of the secret office in the two-page list of planned locations for the mobile office.

Later, when questioned why the DMV secret office wasn't on the list of locations operated as part of the mobile office program, a spokesman reversed his previous assertion that the secret office was part of that program.

"I am also told the lists are for the mobile units and the RV's that go out, which is why the DMV HQ is not on it as it was not a traveling setup," spokesman Steve Abbott said in an email.

Related: NCDMV operated secret driver's license office as residents waited in long lines

Last week, when WBTV conducted an impromptu interview with a different DMV spokesman about the secret office, that spokesman promised Jessup, the DMV Commissioner, would be made available for an on-camera interview to answer questions from a WBTV reporter.

As of Tuesday night, DMV had refused to make Jessup available to WBTV for an on-camera interview, even as Jessup spoke with other media outlets across the state.

Additionally, multiple emails to the press office for Governor Roy Cooper, inquiring as to whether Cooper was aware of the secret office and, if so, whether he approved of its operation, have gone unanswered.

But, in a tweet, Cooper's Communications Director Sadie Weiner responded to a tweet about this story sent by a WBTV reporter.

"Nowhere in your story is the list of major NC employers, military bases and towns that got what you might call 'secret' appointments," Weiner tweeted.

She did not respond to a follow-up tweet asking why a DMV spokesman initially denied the existence of the driver's license office located inside the agency's headquarters and whether her tweet was the official statement on behalf of Cooper.

In a separate tweet, Weiner claimed that lawmakers at the North Carolina General Assembly were able to schedule appointments at a DMV mobile driver's license during a stop scheduled earlier this year.

But a document provided by DMV earlier on Tuesday—and referenced by Weiner on Twitter—shows the DMV mobile office didn't actually stop at the legislature as scheduled.

"We have not visit (sic) the Legislative Building stop this year," the document provided by DMV, which shows a schedule of mobile driver's license office stops, said.

Weiner did not respond to a tweet from a WBTV reporter seeking clarification on the fact that the claim contained in her tweet was contradicted by the document she pointed to as proof of her claim.

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