- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

Sherryl Hobbs Newman, director of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, will not continue to head the agency under Mayor Anthony A. Williams, government sources said yesterday.
Mrs. Newman, who has worked with the mayor since he was the chief financial officer, will remain in the administration in some capacity, city sources said.
"The details are sketchy with what will happen with Sherryl. She will undoubtedly remain in the administration, but we just don't know where," said one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Williams has dodged the issue of Mrs. Newman's reconfirmation to the agency for months. In a January press briefing, he reluctantly told reporters that her position was "under review."
Mrs. Newman, who began her D.C. government career as a customer-service director in the tax office, has turned down an offer to take over the Office of Tax and Revenue, said one source, adding "she's not interested in going to that job."
Mr. Williams has credited her with cleaning up that agency's performance in dealing with the public.
Officials in the mayor's office and at the DMV declined to comment on the matter. Mrs. Newman also declined to speak with The Washington Times about her status.
But Mr. Williams' statement that her post is "under review" is a common code phrase he uses to describe employees who are on their way out.
The mayor used the term in the past to describe the job status of former D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Ronnie Few.
In a meeting last spring with editors and reporters of The Washington Times, Mr. Williams said, "We will review his status month-to-month." By the summer, Chief Few was gone.
That same phrase was used to describe the performance of Parks and Recreation Director Robert Newman, Mrs. Newman's husband. He, too, was ousted a short time thereafter.
Council members said despite several problems with the agency last year, Mrs. Newman was not to blame for most them and praised her for her hard work and personable nature.
"A year ago, they were having major problems, but I have heard some favorable compliments since then," said council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat.
"I can think of a lot of other agencies that need change more than the DMV," he said.
One administration source, who refused to be identified, told The Times, "The problems in DMV are not about Sherryl. The problems are coming from the Office of the Chief Technology Officer and the computer system."
Council member David A. Catania, at-large Republican, said he would not support removing Mrs. Newman unless a case was made for poor performance.
"If you constantly use the director position as a revolving door, we'll never have any accountability," Mr. Catania said.
"I think Sherryl is a very capable person, and no one person can fix an agency by themselves. It takes a team effort," he said.
Mrs. Newman has had the "gift and the curse" in dealing with DMV fiascoes. For a short time in 2001 and early 2002, it looked as if the problems with long waits and poor service were turning around for the department. But 2002 turned into the toughest year the director faced.
Long wait times at DMV service windows began to occur shortly after the agency uploaded the new Destiny computer system in April. The system wreaked havoc on residents, catching long-lost fines from as far back as 15 years.
The D.C. Council eventually intervened in August to alleviate the problem and rescinded all fines issued before 1997.
It also was discovered that the agency had collected and kept more than $17 million in ticket overpayments from residents for nearly 20 years. And the agency had collected and kept more than $800,000 in overpayments since Mrs. Newman took office in 1998.
Mrs. Newman began the process of returning to residents overpayments logged during her tenure and would later use old records to extend the time period of those eligible for reimbursements.
Summer heat caused more woes when the city's lone inspection station on Half Street in Southwest closed early numerous times. The closings led to backlogs, which caused residents to sit in lines a half-mile long to reach inspection bays. In numerous cases, residents waited in those lines two or three times in one week before the car was ever examined.
Mr. Williams said he would expedite the reconstruction of the old station on West Virginia Avenue, which has yet to open. It has been closed for nearly three years.
Problems also arose with the new-registration window stickers. Hundreds of residents received tickets from police officers in other jurisdictions because they were not informed of the change from the license-plate stickers to the window attachments.

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