Thousands of NC permanent plates unaccounted for, misused

Posted February 14, 2012 6:29 p.m. EST
Updated February 14, 2012 6:37 p.m. EST

— Nearly 7,000 permanent North Carolina license plates are either unaccounted for or being used improperly, according to a state report released Tuesday.

The report from the legislature's Program Evaluation Division prompted lawmakers to demand more accountability from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

"We're losing the fees that go along with plate renewal. We don't know that the cars are safe because we don't know if they've been inspected or not," said Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir.

The report found that 4,218 silver permanent plates, which are issued to local government agencies, law enforcement and religious organizations, are being used improperly by private colleges, businesses and utility companies.

DMV Deputy Commissioner Johanna Reese said she couldn't explain how the permanent plates were issued to private entities.

A permanent license plate costs $6 and never has to be registered again, so the people who have one and shouldn't are saving the $28 annual fee to renew the plate. That adds up to more than $100,000 a year in lost revenue for the state, according to the report.

The Program Evaluation Division found in December that 2,623 yellow permanent plates used on vehicles in the state motor fleet cannot be accounted for because North Carolina doesn't have a central database for keeping track of its vehicles.

"Some of those are gone, destroyed, in the junkyard. We won't be able to track all of those down," Reese told lawmakers Tuesday.

"This is a mess. What's the proposal to clear it up?" LaRoque told Reese and other DMV officials.

A legislative oversight committee voted to draft legislation to correct the issues.