East Hartford Mayor Melody A. Currey, Gov.-elect Dan Malloy‘s choice to head the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said Thursday she is taking over with the goal of making the much-maligned agency more streamlined and efficient.
“My marching orders are very direct: Make sure the customer is taken care of and make sure we do it in an efficient and effective manner and as fiscally conservative as possible,” Currey said after Malloy announced her appointment.
Malloy said he would like Currey to help move the DMV in a direction that would allow state residents to be able to do more online at home or at more convenient locations.
“In a perfect world she would put herself out of business,” he said, adding it’s a “real possibility” that the agency could be merged with another state agency or their functions outsourced to other providers down the road.
Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said earlier this week he supports eliminating the DMV.
“I would say let’s blow up the huge bureaucratic buildings with the long lines. Let’s decentralize it,” he told NPR talkshow host John Dankosky.
Last year, Sen. Donald J. DeFronzo as co-chairman of the Transportation Committee considered introducing a proposal he drafted to merge the functions of the DMV into other agencies. The legislature’s research team found just 11 states have stand a alone DMV agency.
Williams said moving much of their services to the Internet and to kiosks has the potential to save the state “tens of millions of dollars.”
The DMV’s budget has remained almost unchanged over the last decade, with the state spending $53 million from the general and transportation funds in both fiscal 2003 and in the current year. However, the number of employees has been drastically reduced during that same time — from 883 to 768 people this year.
Currey, who served as a legislator for 16 years before becoming mayor, said during an interview following the announcement that while she intends to streamline the DMV, it is too early to tell if that will mean a further reduction in the number of employees at the agency.
“We are looking for savings and that may mean using technology and the Internet to our advantage,” she said.
The DMV also will face numerous management challenges. Earlier this month, an investigation by the attorney general’s office concluded that agency officials were lax in investigating apparent violations by one of the state’s largest driving schools.
A recent state audit also found problems such double payment of bonuses to employees and failure to suspend licenses or registrations paid for with a bad check. The auditors also said the agency was slow to look into complaints from the public, police agencies and local tax authorities.
In response, the agency announced this week it will start notifying cities and towns when it receives complaints that a resident has registered a vehicle out-of-state to avoid local property taxes.
Currey said cracking down on improper registrations will be a priority. She is currently president of CCM, and has fought at the Capitol against state mandates on cities and towns and to preserve state funding.
Jim Finley, executive director of CCM, said out-of-state registrations are a significant problem. Better enforcement of the current law — which requires people to register their car after 60 days of moving to the state or if they spend more than six months in the state each year – could potentially bring towns millions in additional revenue, he said.
Finley, who has worked with Currey for years, said has what it takes to transform the DMV.
“She’s good at reinventing government and she has a history of convincing other state legislators to jump on board,” he said.