Top Idaho officials on August 28 said they were fed up with the state’s latest driver’s license system, arguing the $10.5 million contract has failed to live up to its promises and instead has resulted in lengthy delays and chaotic conflicts for customers over the past year.
Idaho sheriffs have called on Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to address the driver’s license system. Meanwhile, the Idaho Transportation Department announced it would temporarily halt using the software provided by the contracted vendor after confirming DMV computers were experiencing outages.
To date, there have been 11 incidents — totaling roughly 32 hours — where DMV computers slowed or stopped.
“As sheriff, and as a taxpayer, I am furious that the state of Idaho has poured millions of dollars into systems that are poorly designed and implemented without the benefit of beta testing sites to address the potential and real issues with these critically important systems,” wrote Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue, president of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association, in an Aug. 23 letter.
Currently, Idaho law says county sheriffs are responsible for providing driver’s license services but the computer system used to provide those services is run through the state’s transportation agency. Idaho is one of just two states to operate under such a system.
In their letter, the sheriffs expressed support of changing the state law to place all driver’s license services with ITD.
“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,” Otter said a statement. “My office will convene a working group comprised of all affected stakeholders, including ITD, the Idaho State Police, the Idaho Sheriffs Association, and the Idaho Association of Counties, to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.”
Both ITD and the sheriff’s association held separate news conferences August 28 to address the DMV outages.
Specifically, ITD announced it would allow county DMV offices to issue driver’s licenses independent from the software connected with the vendor Gemalto, an Amsterdam-based company known primarily for manufacturing SIM cards used in mobile phones and credit cards.
The solution was billed as a short-term fix while the state works to find a long-term answer.
“The level of service that’s been affecting our citizens, the sheriff’s offices, our staff and ITD is completely unacceptable,” said Alberto Gonzalez, head of ITD’s Department of Motor Vehicles. “We’ve been working with our vendor very patiently for quite some time but the outages continue and they’ve even spread into other states.”
Gonzalez did not specify which other states were also experiencing problems with Gemalto. Nor did he specify which other state operates like Idaho.
In 2015, ITD finalized a $7.6 million five-year contract with Gemalto. That following year, Idaho DMV offices were closed for half-day increments to install new software. At the same time, the contract was amended to add additional services, bumping the value to $10.5 million.
Yet last year, motor vehicle offices began reporting they were hobbled by computer problems that resulted in hourslong outages. Those problems have continued to spill into 2018, with the conflict coming to a head Tuesday.
Early in the day, the state’s transportation agency issued an alert promising the driver’s license system was back up and running normally after facing outages the day before.
However, after sheriffs across the state released statements countering they couldn’t access the driver’s license system, ITD announced it was recommending all sheriffs’ offices in Idaho’s 44 counties shut down driver’s license services in order for the agency to study and address the problem.
“ITD has been brutal to work with and has no sense of the impact on the sheriff’s office or our citizens,” wrote Ada County Sheriff Steve Bartlett. “They need an overhaul in a major way with their leadership and supervision. Idaho citizens deserve far better.”
The sheriff’s letter also contained feedback from several sheriffs with comments ranging from calling the system a “fiasco” to Elmore County Sheriff Mike Hollingshead emailing Donahue that his office was “living a NIGHTMARE!”
Gonzalez apologized for the “severe” inconveniences during Tuesday’s press conference, adding he hoped to collaborate with the sheriffs to find a long-term solution.