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DMV Workers Told Not To Tell Public About Computer Glitches

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Posted at 6:15 PM, Mar 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 14:20:29-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - When the Department of Safety and Homeland Security launched its new driver license computer system last month, there were some glitches.

But state officials told employees, in emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, not to tell the public about the problems.

The new computer system was two years in the making and was finished on budget at $30 million.

But when it went online in mid-February, some employees did not seem ready.

On March 3, we found people waiting for hours at the drivers license reinstatement center on Murfreesboro Road.

Security personnel tried to calm nerves as people were told to come back the next day.

"I've been here Monday and Tuesday at 8:45 and I didn't get in," one customer said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates learned the problems went beyond one reinstatement center.

In Shelbyville, a woman was turned away from the driver service center after waiting to get a learner's permit for her daughter.

They came back the next day on February 19, but wrote in a complaint "None of the employees were trained on how to use the new computer system."

The mother and daughter claim they waited four hours.

The Department of Safety's director of driver services, Michael Hogan, admitted there were start-up problems with the Department's computer system.

"When we first rolled out the system, we had some minor glitches," Hogan said.

But emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates show the department didn't want employees telling that to the public.

A day after the Shelbyville complaint, all district managers were told: "Do not tell customers that we have a new system that is not working." The email continued, "We don't want the public to think we spent 30 million dollars on a system that doesn't work when that is not the problem."

 

 

Hogan responded after we showed him the email, "The person that wrote that email was just trying to stress, 'let's be patient.' We know there's a transition period. This is not something we expect to last a long time."

He emphasized the system does in fact work, but some employees were not comfortable using it.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Were employees trained when this came out?"

Hogan responded, "Absolutely. In fact, we started the training process in July 2014."

The department currently has a support team fielding questions from employees, and Hogan said employees are getting more comfortable.

"The issues we saw were just where the employees were a little frustrated because they are changing from a process that they've been doing for over 20-plus years," Hogan said.

Things seemed to improve last week at the station on Hart Lane.

"I've never been out here in less than an hour," one customer said. "I did that today in less than 10 minutes."

"They made some good changes or something. I know it's different," said Irene Matthews.

Hogan credits the new system and said things will only get better.

"Were there some minor glitches? Absolutely, but overall, I think we are past that and everyone should be pleased with the product," Hogan said.

We went back out to the Hart Lane Center on Friday unannounced, and the line was a little longer.

The state said the average wait time is 24 minutes -- they hope the new system will help improve wait times.

The department also said that it has increased staff at some reinstatement centers.

State officials said getting a license reinstated takes longer, and it's always busiest when people get their income tax refunds.