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Assemblyman Jim Patterson. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Legislators Again Protect DMV from Independent Audit

Agency has ‘good handle,’ says DMV boss, and government unions claim audit is ‘premature’

By Lloyd Billingsley, June 27, 2019 8:42 am

Assemblyman Jim Patterson. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

“For the second time in the past 12 months,” Bryan Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports, “California Democrats declined to open an independent investigation into the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.” The audit request was “the most sweeping review” of the “motor voter” program and new federal ID requirement, as California Globe has reported.

Four Senate Democrats voted against the request, which would have deployed state auditor Elaine Howle. As Anderson noted, Howle “does not report to the Governor’s Office and is considered independent of state government’s executive branch.”

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), a supporter of an independent audit, told reporters, “Californians, if they were hoping if somehow their experience at the DMV was going to be improved pretty soon, would be disappointed today, what we saw was politics got in the way of really doing the right thing.”

Last year, long lines and reports of DMV employees sleeping on the job prompted calls for an investigation. DMV director Jean Shiomoto resisted and legislators handed the agency another $16 million. When the problems persisted, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered an audit by his own Department of Finance, not state auditor Elaine Howle, a proven performer.

In 2017, Howle’s office uncovered a secret slush fund of $175 million at the University of California, despite efforts by UC president Janet Napolitano and her aides to deceive the auditors. Two UC bosses resigned and the Board of Regents admonished Napolitano.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed a “strike team” and an outside law firm to investigate the DMV. In the style of Shiomoto, current DMV boss Kathleen Webb claimed an audit would require her to “divert resources” and told reporters “we’ll have a good handle on things we need to do.”

Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) urged legislators to reject an independent audit, which union bosses viewed as “premature.” In 2013, the  SEIU’s Yvonne Walker led a rally of 8,000 government union members at the state capitol, explaining, “we’re letting them know that this is our house.” The SEIU represents DMV employees across the state.

Last year, as ABC News reported, “a key data operator at the Department of Motor Vehicles failed to perform her essential duties over a period of nearly four years because she slept at her desk for extended periods of time during work hours.” The employee misused more than 2,200 of work time and cost the state more than $40,000. The employee was not named and by all indications remains on the job.

Meanwhile, this writer recently mailed a check for his annual automobile registration. The DMV took more than three weeks to cash the check and at this writing the registration has yet to arrive.

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