BOSTON (CBS) — Lawmakers on the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee voted to recess a hearing on systematic failures at the Registry of Motor Vehicles after key witnesses did not attend, including two RMV department heads.
Monday’s hearing was supposed to investigate why the RMV missed or ignored thousands of notifications from out of state about potentially dangerous drivers here in Massachusetts.
“Until we get the kind of cooperation which includes what everyone knows are the key players, why should we piecemeal what is such an important topic,” Co-Chair of the Committee, Rep. William Straus said.
The RMV oversight was discovered after West Springfield man, Volodymyr Zhukovsky, was accused of striking and killing seven motorcyclists while driving with a commercial license. State officials said his license should have been suspended after he was charged with driving under the influence in Connecticut. A notification from Connecticut went unnoticed until after the deadly crash.
“We have a duty to the public at large and the Commonwealth and the families of the victims that suffered this awful loss in June to get to the bottom of these questions,” Co-Chair of the Transportation Committee, Sen. Joseph Boncore said after voting to postpone.
Straus and Boncore specifically mentioned the absence of RMV Merit Rating Board Director Thomas Bowes and Driver Control Unity Keith Constantino, citing a letter sent by Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack on Friday in which she said she would not direct or prohibit anyone from testifying.
“They didn’t ask, they didn’t say no to their own department heads. I’ve been here for over 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like that,” Straus said.
Bowes was overseeing the Merit Rating Board when it stopped processing out of state notifications in March of 2018. Straus says that time coincides with the installation of a new record management system at the RMV called Atlas. Fast Enterprises LLC., the vendor that installed that system, also did not attend the hearing.
The hearing was attended by Secretary Pollack, and Acting Registrar Jamie Tesler. Former Registrar Erin Deveney resigned after news of the incident involving Zhukovsky broke.
“We fully respect the authority of this committee to undertake its investigation. We also think it’s important for both our investigation and theirs that we have the time to both assemble the documents, interview the witnesses, and get to the bottom of what happened,” Pollack told reporters on Monday.
Transportation officials say 58 boxes containing tens of thousands of unprocessed paper notifications from out of state were discovered in a room at the Quincy headquarters of the RMV. Since the discovery, the licenses of 1,607 Massachusetts have been suspended.
There was also, “no evidence that the RMV has, at least not for many years, had a consistent practice of sending out mail or electronic notification of violations or suspensionable actions taken in Massachusetts to other states in ‘real-time’,” Tesler wrote in written testimony to the Committee.
An independent review of the RMV is currently being conducted.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Straus told reporters when asked how he would get the witnesses to testify.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo also released a statement about Monday’s postponement. He said, in part: “I am extremely disappointed by the lack of cooperation this morning by MassDOT. I am deeply troubled by the unacceptable, systemic failures at the RMV that have resulted in the need for today’s actions. I call upon the Administration and MassDOT to participate in the Committee’s fact-finding process without exception or qualification. The Legislature will not be thwarted in the discharge of its oversight responsibilities. The citizens of the Commonwealth deserve nothing less.”
MassDOT Spokesperson Patrick Marvin also released a statement that said, “Secretary Pollack and Acting Registrar Tesler have been transparent and cooperative with the Transportation Committee’s requests since this hearing was scheduled and came prepared to deliver testimony, provided hundreds of pages of requested documents and informed the committee that some information is not yet available due to Grant Thornton’s ongoing, independent forensic review. The Secretary is committed to providing the results of this review to the Committee as soon as it is completed and looks forward to working with the Legislature to improve processes at the RMV.”