Gov. Mike Pence is canceling a Bureau of Motor Vehicles contract with private license branch operator Express MVA and requesting a formal ethics investigation into a top BMV official who took a job at the company after allowing it to charge customers a “convenience fee” whose legality has been questioned.
“This Administration is committed to a government that is as good as our people,” Pence
said Monday. “After this matter was brought to my attention, I called for the contract with ExpressMVA to not be renewed when it expires in October. I also asked for an investigation by Indiana’s Inspector General to ensure that state government adheres to the highest levels of transparency and full disclosure.”
Governor Mike Pence
Those moves come in response to an Indianapolis Star investigation published last week. The Star found that former BMV Chief of Staff Shawn Walters allowed a relatively small contractor called Express MVA to open a private license branch complete with BMV-issued workstations and access to the BMV’s computer system.
The arrangement cost the state no money, but allowed the company to charge customers — including auto dealerships — a so-called “convenience fee” for title and registration work traditionally provided by the BMV. Those fees can double the cost of the services and are often passed on to car buyers, who may not realize they could save money by going to a local license branch.
Walters then took a newly created executive job with Express MVA without seeking an opinion from the state’s ethics commission.
State law requires a one-year cooling-off period for employees who want to take a job with a company that does business with the state. The law is intended to prevent private companies from using lucrative jobs to entice or reward state officials who have the power to award them contracts.This BMV fiasco dates back to the administration of Governor Mitch Daniels. Unfortunately, Governor Daniels ran a very loose ship when it came to his office supervising the work of the state's administrative agencies. It is good to see Governor Pence take a more aggressive approach to his role as the state's chief administrator.