Internal DMV reports conflict with commissioner’s explanation for long wait times

Internal DMV reports conflict with Commissioner's explanation for long wait times

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Internal DMV reports obtained by WBTV suggest explanations offered for long wait times at driver's license offices across the state are inaccurate.

Residents across North Carolina have reported waiting as much a seven hours to get a new driver's license.

The long wait times were the subject of a press conference held by DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup in early August.

"We have something going on in the state that you've heard about and it's called Real ID," Jessup said in offering up reasons for the long wait times.

"As I'm talking to our driver's license examiners," he said, "They're telling me people are coming in wanting to get their Real ID."

But internal DMV data obtained by WBTV suggests the number of Real ID's issued by the agency has remained virtually flat for the entirety of 2018, both as a percentage of total licenses issued and in raw numbers.

WBTV obtained two reports used to calculate the percentage of Real ID's issued compared to all licenses. The first is a report from the DMV's vendor, Idemia, showing the number of driver's licenses printed by month. The second report is a breakdown of the type of license issued each month broken down between 'original issuances', 'renewals' and 'first-time Real ID issuance'.

Document: Click here to see the monthly processing stats

WBTV used the two reports to calculate the percentages of Real ID's issued each month.

The math shows that Real ID's have accounted for between 20 percent and 29 percent of total licenses issued each month in 2018.

In March, Real ID's only accounted for 20 percent of all ID's printed, according to the reports. By contrast, June was the highest month, when Real ID's accounted for 29 percent of all ID's issued.

The calculations computed for this report were confirmed by a second document obtained by WBTV on Monday, labeled an 'Executive Situation Report.'

According to the report, Real ID's accounting for roughly 27 percent of total licenses issued.

Related: Internal DMV report claims customers only waiting 50 minutes at license offices

The data did not come as a shock to State Representative Scott Stone (R-Mecklenburg), who sent a letter to Jessup last week in the wake of WBTV's investigative report uncovering a secret driver's license office operated one week a month by appointment only for state employees and their associates.

"It just doesn't make sense that Real ID would be the reason," Stone said.

Stone said he received a response to his inquiry last week. According to Stone, Jessup's response laid much of the blame for long wait times across the state on residents seeking Real ID's.

But a DMV spokesman disputed the data obtained by WBTV in an email sent less than an hour before the story was scheduled to air, sent in response to a request for comment sent by a WBTV reporter 24 hours earlier.

"Since you haven't shared the numbers you have, the best we can do is guess that you are likely looking at total issuances, which includes online transactions as well as office visits," DMV spokesman Jamie Kritzer said. "Since REAL IDs can only be issued during office visits, it is misleading to calculate a percentage of REAL ID transactions taking place at DMV offices based on data that includes online transactions."

Document: Click here to see the Executive Situation Report

But, in a phone call, Krizter couldn't explain why DMV's own executive situation report failed to measure Real ID's issued compared to only in-person visits.

Kritzer said he wasn't aware of the report a WBTV reporter was referring to—generated by agency staff on August 23, 2018—and continued to say he couldn't offer an explanation after the reporter sent him a copy of the report.

Stone, the state lawmaker, said he was disappointed by the response from DMV leadership to date.

"Admit you did wrong and say you're not going to do it anymore and move on," Stone said. "But these stories that it's something else that don't make any sense, it's just not enough transparency and people aren't going to trust government."

In addition to the reports showing the lack of spike in Real ID's being issued, WBTV also obtained reports showing Jessup inaccurately described the number of vacancies at the agency.

"We have 80 vacancies. We've worked really hard to keep that vacancy rate down all over the state," Jessup said of vacancies at the agency.

WBTV obtained a vacancy report, printed in late August 2018, showing 162 vacancies in permanent positions. A second report, also printed in late August, documenting vacancies in temporary positions, showed roughly 80 openings.

Kritzer, the DMV spokesman, offered the following contradictory points as an explanation for the discrepancy between what Jessup said at his press conference and the number of vacant positions as reflected in the internal reports obtained by WBTV.

"The total number of vacancies across DMV is about 176 positions. Those are not just vacancies for driver license examiners, but for other sections such as vehicle registration and License and Theft," Kritzer said. "As Commissioner Jessup stated in the Aug. 8 news conference, at that time, DMV was working to fill more than 80 temporary and permanent positions."

As the DMV has continued to offer explanations to explain new questions raised by WBTV, members of the North Carolina General Assembly have announced new questions for the agency.

On Friday, Senator Jim Davis (R-Macon) and Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), co-chairs of the Senate Transportation Committee, sent a letter to Jessup with a list of questions about the long wait times at driver's license offices and about the secret DMV office first exposed by WBTV.

Among the questions related to the secret DMV office posed by the senators was who used the office.

The DMV—with help from attorneys in the office of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein—have refused to produce documents showing who scheduled appointments to use the office.

"Having a valid driver's license is a necessity for most North Carolinians and providing one should be a simple function of state government," the senators wrote in their letter. "The inefficiencies at the North Carolina DMV are unacceptable and harm the public's confidence in government's ability to provide basic services."

Leaders from the DMV will be expected to answer questions during a meeting of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Transportation, which will convene on Thursday, September 13 to begin investigating the issues at the DMV.

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