- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, dogged in recent weeks by the city's failure to return millions of dollars in overpaid parking tickets, yesterday praised the Department of Motor Vehicles' new computer system and director Sherryl Hobbs Newman.
The mayor joined Mrs. Newman and Suzanne Peck, the city's chief technology officer, at an afternoon meeting to demonstrate the computer system for reporters one day before Mrs. Newman was scheduled to appear at a council member's hearing to answer questions about the overcharges and other problems at the DMV.
D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, an at-large Republican who said she has been inundated with letters and phone calls complaining about the system since it was fully integrated April 24, will hear from DMV officials and frustrated residents today at 3 p.m.
Asked whether yesterday's demonstration was an attempt to defuse what could be a raucous meeting, the mayor said he wanted to complement Mrs. Schwartz's hearing, not undermine it.
Mrs. Newman told reporters that even with the improvements, there will always be ticket overpayments. But she promised that Destiny as the new system is called will help the District correct mistakes more efficiently.
The trio also promised to shorten wait times and speed the opening of a new inspection station.
Mrs. Newman said the DMV is correcting the overpayments.
"In 2000, we began notifying people about crediting forward money in overpayments to other outstanding tickets as one way to deal with the double payments," Mrs. Newman said.
She said to date, the DMV has mailed 25,000 notices to residents due a refund since her office noticed the problem in November.
"We've gotten 11,500 responses, and we have mailed out 8,400 checks," Mrs. Newman said.
The Washington Times reported last week that the department was under fire for wrongly collecting more than $17 million in ticket fines from 1981 to 1997, according to a 1998 audit report by the D.C. auditor. Since Mrs. Newman became director in 1999, the agency had collected more than $860,000 in overpayments. Mrs. Newman began mailing notices in Nov. 2001 to residents who were owed refunds.
For the majority of the two-hour presentation, Mrs. Newman and Mrs. Peck showcased services offered online by the $19 million Destiny system.
Using the mayor as an example, Mrs. Peck showed how any resident can re-register his or her vehicle online in less than five minutes 4 minutes and 56 seconds in this case. "The Destiny system has 23 online functions. That is more than any other DMV system in the country," Mrs. Peck said.
The Virginia DMV system has 15 online services, New York's has 12 and Maryland's Motor Vehicles Administration has seven.
Mr. Williams urged residents to avoid longer DMV lines by re-registering their cars and paying tickets online. But the mayor acknowledged that some may have "an anxiety about using online services for security reasons."
Mrs. Peck said the system is secure.
"We have the Secure Socket Lock and the Virtual Private Network systems, the same D.C. government firewalls, and our special authorized service users have digital ID numbers," she said.
Mrs. Newman said 15 full-time workers will be hired to staff the information desks at DMV offices.
She said drivers with problems from no insurance to overdue tickets will be screened, allowing residents "with all their affairs in order to continue on the counters."
Mr. Williams said he expects the DMV to return to its former level of service that it experienced five month ago after the Destiny tryout period is over and after more residents take advantage of online services.
But both Mrs. Peck and Mrs. Newman said that "Destiny is only one leg" and is not a cure-all.

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