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I-Team: Inspector General Finds Phony Plates On Some State Vehicles

By Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
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BOSTON (CBS) — The I-Team  has learned the state’s Inspector General is raising serious questions about how the agency in charge of transportation oversees its own vehicles.

At a building on Mystic Avenue in Medford, state employees make about 15,000 road signs each year. Turns out they were also making something else, license plates for state vehicles. When a state plate would go missing from a truck, trailer, passenger car, or state police cruiser, the “sign shop” employees simply made a new identical one without ever involving the Registry of Motors Vehicles, the I-Team has learned.

“Well, it was a common practice that has been going on for 20 years,” said Highway Commissioner Frank DePaola.

The state says the “sign shop” employees will not be disciplined. MassDot, which just raised fees at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, confirms at least 52 state vehicles had the bogus plates, including four state police cruisers patrolling the Pike.

“The capability of making licenses plates had us concerned that there was a temptation for someone to manufacture a plate for other purposes. And we wanted to remove that capability completely,” DePaola said.

DePaola says no plates have been made for other purposes.

The bogus license plates were found by the state’s Inspector General who has been auditing MassDot’s 1,500 vehicle fleet for the past four months. The I-Team has learned the Inspector General found other wide-spread problems with the agency’s record keeping – from missing logs and mileage reports, outdated inspection stickers and at least 25 employees assigned take home vehicles who shouldn’t have them.

MassDot says it has hired six people to fix the problems.

“We are implementing a better vehicle management control system so that we have a better data base on where our vehicles are assigned, who has them and what they are being used for,” DePaola said.

If you had one of those 52 missing state plates on your car, you would not be subject to tolls and your chances of being pulled over or even issued a parking ticket, would be greatly reduced. However, MassDot executives say they do not believe this is a criminal matter and they say the Inspector General agrees.

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