- The Washington Times - Friday, October 29, 2004

The director of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles yesterday publicly apologized for failing to notify thousands of car owners to renew their registrations.

“I feel very badly about this, and we will be making a commitment to fixing it,” said DMV Director Anne C. Witt.

She issued her apology during a round-table meeting of the D.C. Council’s Committee on Public Works and the Environment.

During the meeting, Miss Witt said the agency is not required by law to notify vehicle owners that their registration is close to expiring, but committee Chairwoman Carol Schwartz said it should be the law.

Mrs. Schwartz pointed out that the City Council is slated to vote Wednesday on a legislative reform of DMV policies, saying the vote would provide the opportunity to make it a law.

“I don’t know how that would matter,” Miss Witt said. “I view it as the same difference. I think [residents] deserve it, and that is why we have worked so hard to fix this.”

The Washington Times reported Thursday that an ongoing problem with computer printers in DMV’s 301 C St. NW headquarters corrupted batches of renewal notifications in recent months, subjecting vehicle owners to $100 fines.

The printers are part of a system that automatically generates 60-day renewal notices each night.

Miss Witt told the committee that the printers would be replaced within 30 days and that employee are now hand-feeding paper rolls into the printers to avoid jams.

She said another reason that vehicle owners were not notified of the problem was that employees initially considered the glitch one of many that “happen occasionally throughout the year” until the problem became more serious.

Mrs. Schwartz said she was satisfied with Miss Witt’s explanation.

“I questioned her during the hearing, at which point she explained what occurred with the equipment, how the problem would be rectified and made a public apology,” Mrs. Schwartz said.

Miss Witt also said that neighborhood DMV offices would be open the first two Saturdays in November to accommodate people whose registration is about to expire but did not receive a notice.

She said that anyone who was issued a ticket for an expired registration because they did not receive a notice should contest the ticket with DMV’s Bureau of Traffic Adjudication.

Miss Witt said she has notified the bureau to cancel a ticket for a vehicle owner whose registration had lapsed if it was issued within the dates of the printer problem.

Miss Witt said she does not know exactly how many motorists were affected. However, DMV employees have said the problem has spread to as many as 50 percent of the vehicle owners who were supposed to receive the 60-day notifications before their registrations expired.

A typical notice lists the costs of renewing a vehicle registration, including the amount for outstanding tickets. It also provides the vehicle owner with payment options. D.C. records show there are 241,600 registered vehicles in the city — so an estimated 40,000 could have been up for one- or two-year renewal in the past two months.

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