- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams is struggling to correct mounting problems in the Department of Motor Vehicles from reimbursing overpayments to improving slowed services.
"We don't want to sit here and hoard people's money . I'm for citizens having their money," Mr. Williams said of the recently exposed $17.8 million in parking-ticket fines wrongly collected by the DMV.
The mayor was quizzed extensively yesterday at his weekly press briefing about problems in the agency.
He said he fully supports the job that DMV chief Sherryl Hobbs Newman has done in trying to address the ticket-overpayment issue from the day she took over as DMV director.
Last week, The Washington Times reported that the city collected more than $860,000 in overpayments since Mr. Williams and Mrs. Newman have been in office. The agency sent out more than 21,000 notices to motorists who were eligible for reimbursements. More than 2,000 have gotten their money back.
"Sherryl Hobbs Newman is the same lady that parachuted into the tax department got the customer service started there," Mr. Williams said, praising her efforts to make changes in D.C. agencies under troubled circumstances.
He said the District's tax department currently has the best record in the country for turnarounds on tax refunds.
The Times reported yesterday that service in the DMV was deteriorating at the new Brentwood Square facility, which is plagued by parking shortages, traffic congestion and long waits.
Mr. Williams said the complaints about the long lines and wait times at the DMV are related to the new Destiny computer system, activated in late April. He said most of the problems currently being raised in the DMV are a result of the Destiny system doing what it is supposed to do force people to pay overdue tickets.
"The problem is," Mr. Williams said, "for the first time, motorists are being caught with outstanding tickets."
"Before we put in the new system, no one was complaining about the lines at C Street," he said.
The new Destiny system has integrated all of the DMV computer databases from ticket issuance, ticket payments and delinquent processing systems. And it will eventually incorporate overdue taxes and child-support payment systems, stopping residents at the counter who want to renew their license or registration.
He said the city enacted a ticket amnesty last year so the agency could clear the system of unpaid tickets before Destiny was activated. But it was largely ignored.
"We have to figure out, how do we approach amnesty again with everyone knowing now we are serious, to relieve some of the pressure on the system and at the counters," Mr. Williams said.
The mayor said Mrs. Newman will hold a press conference Monday to discuss what the DMV will do to correct the problems. Expanding the number of counters, rearranging the lines and developing a ticket-overpayment-reimbursement system that is fair will all be part of the agenda.
On Tuesday, D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, will hold a public hearing on those same issues.
Mr. Williams said there are more counters and service centers than ever before in the city, and that most of the DMV facilities are running smoothly.
But Brentwood has its own problems outside of the computer system, he said, which Mrs. Newman is working to fix.
Guy Taylor contributed to this report.

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