Local News

DMV commissioner: Probe to look into computer contract, gifts

Posted September 29, 2009 11:44 p.m. EDT
Updated September 29, 2009 11:55 p.m. EDT

— The commissioner of North Carolina's Division of Motor Vehicles said the State Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether state employees broke the law by accepting gifts and meals from Verizon, which has a multimillion-dollar computing contract with the division.

Commissioner Mike Robertson said Tuesday that Verizon says 62 state workers or their family members received Carolina Hurricanes hockey tickets, restaurant meals, spa services and other benefits from company employees between August 2006 and January 2009.

Robertson, who joined the division in March, said the SBI has been asked to look into the perk claims and into what happened to computers used to implement the state's electronic sticker program. The DMV paid for the computers, but currently some are unaccounted for.

“The SBI has been asked to look into this, and to whether or not any DMV employee had knowledge of this inventory or those stored computers," Robertson said.

Verizon spokesman Jack Hoey said the computers are in warehouses.

"At the end of the day, all 3,000 computers will be accounted for, and the ones that cannot be put physically in our possession, will be paid for by Verizon," Robertson said.

Robertson said no current employees have been disciplined as of yet and said that the division will conduct an internal investigation after the conclusion of the SBI probe.

Employees are required to follow state ethics rules against receiving gifts from vendors, Robertson added.

“The law says you can't use your job for personal gain,” said Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. “It says you can't take gifts from people who are contractors with the state. Technically, state employees shouldn't be taking gifts from citizens of the state.”

Hoey said five employees will be disciplined regarding the gifts and meals, and that the company is cooperating with the DMV to account for the missing computers.