IN Focus: Governor discusses latest BMV controversy

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INDIANAPOLIS (August 2, 2015) - Gov. Mike Pence and state lawmakers are reacting to the latest controversy involving the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, brought about by a report from our news gathering partners at the Indianapolis Star.

According to the report, published last week by IndyStar reporter Tony Cook:

A top Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles official encouraged the use of a fee whose legality has been questioned — and now he works for a BMV contractor that benefited from that fee.

In the latest revelation of questionable actions by top BMV officials, The Indianapolis Star has learned former Chief of Staff Shawn Walters signed a state contract with a relatively small contractor called Express MVA, allowing the company to charge customers a so-called “convenience fee” for providing services traditionally available only through the BMV.

He later took a newly created executive job with the company without seeking an opinion from the state ethics commission.

The report is just the latest in a string of controversies involving the BMV in recent months.

“The fact that a fee was pushed and then somebody received a job after that just doesn’t seem to pass the smell test,” said State Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis. “Even if it wasn’t an actual violation, I think it violates the spirit of the law.”

Forestal has been calling for changes at the BMV, especially when it comes to those so-called ‘convenience fees.’

“The fee doesn’t seem to really have a purpose except to give money to a private business,” said Forestal, who has been working with other lawmakers this summer on a study committee to look into a way to simplify the BMV’s sometimes complicated fee structure.

"We’re looking into the matter," said Gov. Pence. "We’re in the process of not only to improve the back office but we’re looking at a broad range of proposals to stream line the code and clarify the way the BMV serves the people of Indiana."

Of course, there’s also been the issue of overcharges, a problem that’s led to a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

“As more and more time goes by, as more facts become uncovered, we see this parade of impropriety and misconduct associated with the BMV,” said attorney Richard Shevitz with Cohen & Malad, the law firm leading the class action lawsuit against the BMV. “And again, it’s compounded by the fact that a BMV official has worn both hats both on the BMV side when there was overcharges and now on the private sector side.”

“I think Hoosiers should be shocked that that goes on,” said Forestal. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

State Democrats also issued a statement on the report Monday.

“As this BMV mess continues and we only learn about more potential conflicts of interest, it’s our taxpayers who once again must bear the brunt of its mess,” said communications director Drew Anderson.

BMV officials wouldn’t comment Monday.

We also called ExpressMVA and left a message with Walters on Monday, but he did not return our call.

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