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Batjer Updates Assembly Panel on DMV Strike Force Progress

The DMV's past leadership was faulted Tuesday as a contributing factor to the Department of Motor Vehicles' hurdles — just hours after technological glitches caused two outages at the agency.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles was under a microscope Tuesday as an Assembly subcommittee grilled its leader about how and when it’s going to fix its problems.

Lawmakers also received an update from Government Operations Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer, whom Gov. Gavin Newsom tasked with leading a Strike Force to figure out a diagnosis and a remedy for the troubled department.

Batjer’s Strike Force has been investigating since January why the DMV has been hobbled by chronic problems — frustrating customer wait times, delays in the rollout of the federally required Real ID, a botched Motor Voter implementation, and repeated technological failures and and personnel problems.

“Siloed, top-down decision-making” by DMV leadership was one of the problems Batjer laid out at an Assembly budget hearing. Jean Shiomoto resigned as the DMV’s director in December after four years heading the department. Since her departure, the DMV now has its third acting director, Kathleen Webb.

Batjer, in her comments to the Assembly subcommittee, indicated the Strike Force has been busy on several fronts since January. It’s brought in the state Franchise Tax Board to help with some issues and it’s retained McKinsey and Co. to assess how to create the “cultural change” that she says the DMV needs.

Specifically in the IT realm, Batjer said:

  • The technology is outdated and inadequate, with legacy mainframes and languages creating problems with staff succession and continuity;
  • The department is bogged down by “outdated staffing and organizational structure.”
  • Many staffers in DMV field offices don’t even have work email accounts.
  • On average in some offices, 30 percent of service windows weren’t open.
Subcommittee members listened to Batjer’s comprehensive overview, much of which was a recap of an update she delivered to Gov. Gavin Newsom two weeks ago. The DMV is due to deliver a detailed Corrective Action Plan by the end of May to the state Department of Finance, which has been performing a performance audit of DMV that began when Jerry Brown was governor. The department said IT upgrades would be forthcoming as part of a Corrective Action Plan that will follow a state Department of Finance audit.

Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies including USA Today in Washington, D.C.