Feds asked to help in North Carolina DMV probe

| 4/17/2002

It was reported April 15, that federal authorities would begin an investigation into allegations of misconduct by the Division of Motor Vehicles' western district. State Attorney General Roy Cooper also has called for administrative reforms within the agency.

Cooper's comments came during a news conference held at the State Bureau of Investigation's western headquarters. SBI agents have been investigating the DMV's western district since 2000. Involvement by federal authorities takes the DMV investigation to a new level. Federal authorities have greater investigative powers than do state authorities. Also, any federal charges could carry more severe punishment, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Authorities allege that DMV officers in the western district misled investigators who were gathering information and that DMV officers who reported allegations of wrongdoing claim to have been punished for coming forward.

One former DMV officer has filed a wrongful termination suit and a former DMV officer says details about his sexual proclivities were gathered in an attempt to blackmail him from exposing agency corruption.

Investigators also allege that the DMV mishandled private money intended for a public purpose and showed regulatory favoritism to certain individuals or companies; weigh station employees played favorites when enforcing trucking laws; and that subordinate employees were pressured to perform tasks inappropriate for state employees on state time, specifically, solicitation of campaign contributions.

Also, it's alleged that DMV officers routinely accepted gifts from companies they monitor and that he solicited $500 from a paving contractor at a supervisor's request to help pay for a golf outing by top DMV and Department of Transportation brass.

Later, Cooper held a meeting with the Citizen-Times editorial board. Cooper did not comment on the newspaper's reports of wrongdoing within the DMV, but said the investigation will uncover the truth.
-- Donna Carlson, staff writer