Local News

DMV disciplines 14 in gifts probe

Posted July 23, 2010

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— The state Division of Motor Vehicles suspended or disciplined 14 people following an internal investigation into gifts provided by a vendor, officials announced Friday.

Verizon Business officials said last fall that 62 state workers and family members received Carolina Hurricanes hockey tickets, restaurant meals, spa services and other benefits from Verizon employees from August 2006 to January 2009.

Verizon has a $48 million computing contract with the DMV for the agency's vehicle inspections and emissions program.

DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson said Friday that an internal investigation determined that Verizon managers paid for 57 dinners attended by DMV managers and others and that the company's representatives also provided snacks and lunches for 23 working meetings.

The investigation found that Verizon workers falsified some expenditures – wrongly implicating some state employees – by adding the names of DMV workers who were in training or on vacation to dinners they attended.

Still, Robertson said 20 employees did cross the line and improperly accepted gifts.

"The actions and the activities of a very few coupled with the false accusations have dishonored the division," he said.

Two DMV managers were suspended for five days without pay, and 12 other agency workers were disciplined in some other way. Six employees under investigation have since retired, 12 others were exonerated and the allegations against 10 more were unsubstantiated.

The others implicated by Verizon were family members or other state workers.

DMV Commissioner Mike Roberston DMV chief: Vendor wrongly implicated some workers

Verizon last fall fired four employees and disciplined a fifth for violating the company's code of business conduct.

The investigative report, which was released Friday, names three supervisors who had direct authority over the Verizon contract – John Robinson, Brian Bozard and Debbie Brewer – and notes that they have been named persons of interest in a State Bureau of Investigation probe.

All three have since retired. None could be reached for comment Friday.

"The situation developed where our employees were too close to their employees," Robertson said. "We've taken steps to be sure that will never happen again at the DMV."

The SBI, which is looking into whether state employees broke the law by accepting the gifts, is expected to turn the findings of its probe over to Wake County prosecutors soon. State ethics rules prohibit employees from receiving gifts from vendors.

"It creates a perception among North Carolinians that state employees can be bought." said Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.

Robertson defended his decision not to fire any of the employees, saying he and other officials tried to match the punishment to the level of misconduct.

"We very closely and judiciously weighed the positions. We weighed what the employee did, and we made what I think is a very sound decision based on the evidence that we had," he said.

Because of the episode, DMV workers now "know when to say no" and are keenly aware of ethics regulations, he said.

Pinsky said she believes that exposure, disciplinary action and recent ethics legislation send a cautionary message.

"It's a real turning point," she said.

Verizon's contract, which was awarded without competitive bidding, expires in 2012. Robertson said the next contract will be opened up to other bidders.

79 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • cdx06 Jul 26, 2010

    So I guess the 3 supervisors who had direct authority over the Verizon contract will be able to just retire and it all will go away.
    When the heat comes down on you "Retire"

  • Bob3425 Jul 26, 2010

    what ethics are in government today?

  • rednek Jul 23, 2010

    Are the legislators state employees? If so, why is lobbying allowed? I am under the impression legislators are paid by the state government, therefore state employees; how can they accept trips, etc and not be in violation of the ethics rules?

  • mamabearprotectinghercub Jul 23, 2010

    They knew what they were doing, but that is what I think.

  • twc Jul 23, 2010

    All this over meals? It's normal procedure in the business place.

  • ncmedic201 Jul 23, 2010

    JustAGuy, if you want some interesting reading then read the Internal Investigation that is posted. Those that retired definitely need to be disciplined, those that are low level received the appropriate disciplinary action. The ones at Verizon really deserved to be fired. And the bad thing is this whole thing started because of a disgruntled Verizon employee who appeared to have no problem with her part in this until she heard a rumor that she was going to be replaced.

  • ncmedic201 Jul 23, 2010

    Hokie, the government is nothing but a business. If you were to look into any business you are going to find people that either intentionally or unintentionally do things wrong. The difference is that the news does not cover every Joe out there that does something. You may think that it is ok for every little thing to be exposed because its your tax dollars but you are affected by every private business that has an employee that does something wrong. That grocery store clerk that took a candy bar just caused your prices to go up. The gas station attendant that filled his tank without paying just caused your prices to go up. The McDonalds employee that gave his friend a free drink just caused your prices to go up.

  • VT1994Hokie Jul 23, 2010

    WHY do some of you use all capital letters in your statements? It is hard to read this. Didn't you learn this in elementary school, MS, much less HS?

  • VT1994Hokie Jul 23, 2010

    WOW! Is the entire system in Raleigh out of whack? I have never heard of so many people that are working on our taxpaying monies and cheating in so many areas.

    They are out of control!!!!! We hear about the HWP, leaders in our Legislature that are corrupt. Travel questions about our leaders from the past Governor to the present; people being sent to prison, and on and on.

    I know one thing. I will never vote for another D.

  • JustAGuyInNC Jul 23, 2010

    ncmedic - thanks...I guess I missed that about the Verizon employees on the first time through.

More...