Mass. RMV Scandal Isn't Its First Involving Licensing Drivers

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People enter and exit the Registry of Motor Vehicles office on Blackstone Street in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
People enter and exit the Registry of Motor Vehicles office on Blackstone Street in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Registry of Motor Vehicles, which faces scrutiny this week for failing to suspend licenses and putting dangerous motorists on the road, has done it before.

A 2008 state audit found up to 9,000 motorists should have had their licenses revoked or suspended for offenses like drunken driving and vehicular homicide, but didn’t because the RMV had no tracking procedures.

“The general public has been placed at risk,” the audit stated. “Drivers in Massachusetts are unknowingly sharing the roadways with individuals that should not be on the road.”

Penalties like suspension and revocation were delayed in some cases for over three years.

Though more than a decade old, the previous failures highlight the issues the Registry continues to have, as MassDOT officials on Monday disclosed the discovery of tens of thousands of out-of-state citations sent by mail that were never added to drivers’ records. Instead they were put into dozens of bins and left in a storage room.

At least 540 drivers should have had their licenses suspended, but did not. One of those oversights: Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, who was able to hold onto his commercial driver’s licence after a suspected drunk driving arrest in Connecticut in May. Last month, he allegedly drove into a group of motorcyclists in New Hampshire, killing seven people.

The head registrar, Erin Deveney, resigned last week amid the fallout.

In the 2008 audit, the previous auditor Joe DeNucci, looked at suspensions in 2005 and 2006 and discovered that the Trial Court wasn’t promptly sending tens of thousands of cases to the RMV. The audit faulted both the court system, which sometimes took years to tell the RMV about the outcome of criminal cases, and the RMV, which had no way to verify that the violations were actually put on drivers' records.

“Driver histories were incomplete and the RMV cannot ensure that problem drivers are promptly identified and held responsible for the consequences of their actions,” states the audit.

It also took the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles one to four years — and in one case up to 17 years — to tell thousands of Massachusetts drivers that their licenses were suspended or revoked after violations ranging from drunken driving to motor vehicle homicide.

DeNucci said at the time that the RMV, “has a responsibility to ensure that the public is protected by suspending or revoking the licenses of unsafe drivers as soon as possible following a court deposition.”

Then-Registrar Rachel Kaprielian said fixing the delays was a top priority, and promised an executive working group would be convened. It’s unclear if she formed a working group. Kaprielian didn’t return a phone call or email for comment.

DeNucci was succeeded by Auditor Suzanne Bump in 2011. A spokesman from her office said the 2008 audit has not been followed up on under Bump, and the office hasn’t received any complaints regarding its findings since then.

A MassDOT spokesman, Patrick Marvin, told WBUR that the 2008 audit is "outdated," as it was published before MassDOT was created in 2009. Marvin added that the audit examined licenses that are no longer valid, as licenses must be renewed every five years, and the audit was more than 10 years ago.

Marvin noted the RMV has switched to a new system from the one targeted in the 2008 audit, the Automated Licensing and Registration System. That system is still being used for vehicle registration and titles, but will switch to the new system this year.

The new system, he said, will allow the RMV " to become a more modern, customer-centric organization with improved methods of accessing records and better business processes."

An audit last year of the old ALARS system found that the RMV issued more than 1,900 licenses after the drivers died, and didn’t deactivate more than 4,600 licenses for those who died before their licenses expired.

The RMV and the auditor’s office went tit for tat in the audit. Deveney claimed the audit had errors and questioned the auditor’s methodology, stating it unjustly questioned the integrity of the RMV. The auditor's office stands by its findings.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated where Zhukovskyy lived. 

This article was originally published on July 02, 2019.

This segment aired on July 3, 2019.


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Ally Jarmanning Senior Reporter
Ally is a senior reporter focused on criminal justice and police accountability.


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Christine Willmsen Managing Editor, Investigations
Christine Willmsen is the managing editor of WBUR's investigations team. 



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