One senator who's also running for higher office wants to launch an oversight hearing into the latest controversy at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, but legislative leaders remained quiet Tuesday about whether they want to probe how 2,100 drivers apparently received licenses without taking road tests.
Sen. Diana DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat hoping to become the next state auditor, wrote a letter to Senate President Karen Spilka on Sunday blasting an "all-around calamity" at the RMV and urged the chamber's leadership to open a legislative investigation.
DiZoglio, who on Tuesday recounted her desire for an oversight investigation in a press release sent with her auditor campaign's letterhead, said she wants lawmakers to seek "sworn testimony from the Administration, utilizing the full subpoena and record review powers within our purview, both to get to the bottom of what came to fruition and to prevent this from ever happening again."
"We are hearing from many Massachusetts residents who took their road tests and are now being lumped in with persons who were granted licenses without taking them," DiZoglio wrote in her letter to Spilka. "Worse, when these residents try calling the RMV or even report to the RMV in person, they are provided no answers as to why. This is unacceptable and they need an explanation immediately."
A Department of Transportation spokesperson said the RMV discovered "suspicious activity regarding the issuance of road tests" in 2020, then launched an internal investigation and referred the issue to law enforcement.
Officials said the RMV determined that, starting in April 2018, two road test examiners at the Brockton Service Center gave passing scores to 2,100 Bay Staters who had never actually taken their road tests, allowing them to get licenses.
Those two examiners and two other service center employees were fired, officials said. A spokesperson on Tuesday could not specify when the workers were terminated.
The agency sent letters to drivers who did not complete the road test informing them that they must now schedule and pass a road test, offered free of charge, within 10 days. Additional appointment times were made available, and a spokesperson said anyone who believes they received notice erroneously was given contact information to reach the RMV.
"The situation is an all-around calamity and the RMV has been frustratingly vague in providing the public with answers, including how this happened in the first place," DiZoglio said in her letter.
Spilka's office declined to comment on whether she supported the push for an oversight investigation.
In a televised interview that aired Sunday, Spilka said she does not believe the latest controversy imperils the RMV's ability to handle the additional duties that would come under a pending bill to allow undocumented immigrants to acquire driver's licenses.
"We've had issues with the Registry before, and I hope this maybe puts some parameters on the Registry," Spilka said when asked if the news gave her pause about the push for the licensing bill. "There's no evidence there was any fault of those who went to get their licenses. I don't think that should be an issue."
House Speaker Ronald Mariano's office deferred comment to Transportation Committee co-chair Rep. William Straus, who helped lead a previous investigation into a 2019 controversy that engulfed the RMV.
"I understand the pressures of being a statewide candidate," Straus wrote in an email to the News Service, making a reference to DiZoglio's bid for auditor. "However, the committee has made (an) inquiry on this matter and until more clear information is available, including what timeline occurred between the identification by a supervisor of matters involving the Brockton RMV office and the referral of investigation or investigations to law enforcement by the administration, I don't think it would be helpful or productive to comment further."
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Gov. Charlie Baker said last week that law enforcement agencies continue to work on the Brockton RMV case, which he said "didn't happen for that long."
"It was one of those things where the investigation went on for quite a long time, but that was because people wanted to make absolutely sure that they got to every piece of the behavior and the activity that led to that," Baker told reporters after a Thursday offshore wind event in Somerset. "There were steps in place to find this in the first place. The reason they discovered this is because they did a review and an audit on a regular basis of these types of transactions that figured out there was something there that didn't make sense."
Baker added that he is "not worried about the culture" at the RMV, which also was at the center of a controversy in 2019 after a fatal crash in New Hampshire led to revelations that the agency failed to suspend licenses in thousands of instances based on out-of-state notices.