Massachusetts RMV Scandal: Incompetence Incorporated – Part Two of Two

In Part One of this two-part post, I outlined how seven U.S. war veterans were killed, and three other individuals seriously injured, when a Massachusetts truck driver plowed into them while allegedly high on illegal drugs. Making this tragedy even worse was the fact that several other states had issued written warnings to Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles officials, that the truck driver responsible for these motor vehicle fatalities, had been previously arrested in several other states for drunk and drugged driving offenses. Upon receipt of this kind of notice, Massachusetts DOT and RMV officials were required to immediate suspend that truck driver’s Commercial Drivers license (CDL), but they didn’t. Why? An investigation revealed that thousands of similar such notices from out of state police departments and DMV’s had been – literally – stuffed into boxes in a storage facility in Quincy, un-acted on. The envelopes of these out of state arrest notices were never even opened by RMV staff.

Words are begged for an adequate description of this story. “Mismanagement” doesn’t describe it. “Incompetence” doesn’t come close. Additional media reports about this literally unbelievable story, have revealed that Massachusetts RMV officials knew that these out-of-state license suspension notices, sent in writing to the Massachusetts RMV, were stuffed into dozens and dozens of storage boxes – never acted on – and stored in a state facility. All the while, well over 1,000 dangerous Massachusetts drivers, whose Massachusetts licenses should have been suspended by the RMV, remained on the road, every day. Death and carnage just waiting to happen. As of today’s date, media reports indicate that almost 870 additional Massachusetts drivers have been identified by the RMV as drivers that should have previously had their licenses suspended due to various driving offenses, but never did. That pushes the total of recently suspended Massachusetts drivers licenses, to nearly 2,400. That level of negligence is outrageous.

The typical political response to a fiasco like this, is that the head of the agency involved is forced to resign. Politically, someone’s head, or several heads, have to roll. That’s already happened, as former RMV Registrar Erin Deveney was asked to resign by Governor Charlie Baker. Normally, that drops the heated temperature of the situation down to a politically manageable level. That can’t happen here. This fiasco didn’t occur because of one person – at the top or elsewhere. It occurred due to a systemic, cultural problem within the RMV and in state government agencies in general. Which is: State workers, many of whom who got their jobs through political connections, displaying the worst work habits and attitudes, under the belief that they’ve got a “protected” state job.

Let’s face it: Landing and working at most state jobs, doesn’t require a degree from an Ivy League school or evidence or unusual professional or intellectual achievements. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t talented, dedicated people in state jobs. But as a Massachusetts car accident lawyer who interacts with state agencies like the RMV all the time, I can assure you: Getting state jobs – especially at a place like the RMV, forever a bastion of patronage, depends primarily on who you know. Once hired, as long as one shows up and keeps one’s nose clean, they’re not incentive-ized to do much more. The bottom line: There are few, if any, real, active, enforced performance metrics that these employees are rated on – or punished by if they don’t meet them. Other than primarily showing up and performing rote, repetitive tasks, there are no incentives to perform at a superior level, and few if any disincentives to deliver shoddy, substandard work product.

If this tragedy and the discovery of this systemic fiasco is to produce anything positive, it must be to introduce disincentives for lazy, inefficient, inattentive, downright negligent work performance, and punishments for those who do display such shoddy work and inattention to detail. Conversely, there needs to be instituted systematized incentives for employees to deliver superior performance, be on the ball, sharp-eyed, above an attitude of merely “I showed up for work today – what else do you expect of me?”  Production-based incentives define work conditions in the private sector. (ICYMI: For certain state employees, the correct term there is “The Dreaded Private Sector”. WRKO-AM’s Howie Carr coined that term years ago, to describe the attitude of many state employees, who would fear having to actually perform at a job that wasn’t a politically-connected state job.)

To both minimize the possibility that an unconscionable fiasco like this happens again at either the RMV or any other state agency, the following needs to happen, and now:

1) Aside from former RMV Registrar Erin Deveney from being fired, everyone and anyone who was aware that these license suspension notices had been stored, unopened into neat boxes and un-acted on, should be fired immediately. If they were aware of this stunning negligence and said or did nothing to meaningfully address it, they should be gone.

2) Any and all RMV personnel who didn’t directly know about what was going on with this fiasco, but given their title or specific employment responsibilities should have known about it, should also be fired, forthwith.

3) Outside management consultants should be brought in to conduct a thorough operational audit of the RMV, tasked with developing Performance Standards for all RMV personnel, specific to their positions. Those Performance Standards should be reviewed quarterly, and anyone delivering substandard work performance should be punished through demotions or salary reductions.

It is nightmarish that almost 2,400 Massachusetts drivers were on the road, when they shouldn’t have been. That can’t happen again.  Period.