Idaho’s county sheriffs agree: The Idaho Transportation Department’s new driver’s license software is a wreck.
ITD agrees, too.
“The level of service that has been affecting our citizens, the sheriff’s offices, their staff and ITD is completely unacceptable,” Alberto Gonzalez, Division of Motor Vehicles administrator, said during a press conference Tuesday. “We have been working with our vendor very patiently for quite some time. But the outages continue.”
The wreck — about a dozen statewide outages — worsened Monday. By Tuesday morning, ITD had advised all sheriff-run driver’s licensing offices to “close their doors while troubleshooting continues.”
Those doors could remain closed until Thursday, which is when ITD hopes to implement “a solution.”
Meanwhile, representatives of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association told reporters the problems go beyond a public inconvenience, and represent a public safety hazard.
“What we’ve been delivered so far and what we’ve been given to use ... absolutely has been a failure. And for that, I’m sorry to our citizens. You deserve a lot better from ITD and their customer service,” Ada County Sheriff Stephen Bartlett said.
Gonzalez said ITD is taking steps to extricate itself from the new software provider. But, the state has a five-year contract with the vendor, Gemalto, and the state will still need to depend on some of its technology.
Currently, ITD’s system and Gemalto’s software are integrated.
“What we are going to do is remove that integration into our system and allow the DMVs to process transactions independent of that vendor solution,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez initially said anyone with a soon-to-expire license should contact ITD “and we will help them with either an extension or a letter or some supporting documentation.”
By Wednesday, ITD decided simply to extend “the expiration date for expiring and expired driver’s licenses and identification cards through Oct. 31,” according to a notice ITD sent to county sheriff’s offices.
The extension does not apply to drivers whose licenses are suspended.
Those affected will need a copy of ITD’s extension notice to show law enforcement or TSA. The notice is available at this link, at DMV offices or by contacting ITD at (208) 334-8736 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who needs more specific documentation should contact ITD.
Sheriffs take a stand
Under Idaho law, county sheriffs are responsible for providing drivers’ license services, even though the system is run through ITD.
The problems — the latest version of issues that have plagued ITD since last year — led the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association to write Gov. Butch Otter on Aug. 23, suggesting officials “consider removing driver’s license as a function of the sheriff and move it squarely to ITD where it belongs. We are only one of a few states where the sheriff is legally mandated to perform this function,” Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue wrote.
The letter included comments from more than half of Idaho’s 44 sheriff’s departments, lambasting ITD as “brutal to work with” and “incompetents.” Donahue asked for a meeting with Otter to further discuss the issues.
Donahue and Bartlett elaborated on their concerns at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Gonzalez’s remarks.
“We have officers in the street who cannot run driver’s licenses. When they stop a car, they are walking up to these cars blind,” Donahue said. “They don’t know who they’re approaching.”
And, the sheriffs said, officers aren’t able to access certain warrant databases.
The sheriffs said they learned of ITD’s planned fix through Gonzalez’s statements. Bartlett said he was skeptical of the fix, and both he and Donahue said they were uncertain what ITD was actually proposing.
Donahue referenced a paper-based alternate program he received previous information on, similar to carbon-copying credit cards at a store to replace an electronic card-swipe system. He said if that’s the fix, “we are not interested. It does not work.“
ITD later Tuesday said its solution “would allow county staff to input customer information in person without having to communicate in real time with our vendor.” The county data would be temporarily stored on a different server, then sent to the vendor at the end of each day for inclusion in the larger pool of licensing data. The goal, according to ITD, is to remove any need to access the vendor’s systems in real time, cutting out the source of the delays while customers are at DMV offices.
It’s unclear whether the program Donahue referenced would play any part in that process.
Governor plans a working group
Gonzalez responded to Donahue in a letter Tuesday. Both then and while speaking to reporters, the ITD administrator said he sympathized with the counties but said they share the blame for any botched software rollout.
Gonzalez questioned whether counties effectively trained their employees ahead of time for the new system.
“Transaction revenues, staffing, facilities, training and business hours and days all contribute to the customer experience,” Gonzalez wrote in the letter. “We hear repeatedly that what sheriffs collect from transactions does not cover the cost to operate a driver’s license office. ... This is a valid concern that warrants further discussion.”
Donahue said sheriffs’ offices have been shut down for days to do training, including sending some employees to “super user” training for the software. Employees are now so frustrated, he said, that some are arriving to work already in tears.
ITD has offered to meet with the sheriffs association and county commissioners “to explore various solutions.”
And now, it appears Otter will help make such a meeting happen. The governor released his own statement Tuesday afternoon, saying his office would bring together ITD, the sheriffs, the Idaho State Police and the Idaho Association of Counties, among others, “to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.”
“The recent upgrades that ITD installed to replace an outdated 30-year-old mainframe were vital not only for the operational integrity of our system, but also to ensure that the private information of our citizens remains safe and secure,” Otter said. “... I share the concerns voiced by sheriffs and members of the public who have experienced delays as the issuance of drivers licenses has slowed even after these upgrades were implemented.”
Read both letters here: