Scathing Report Outlines California DMV’s Failures

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SACRAMENTO — A state audit says the California Department of Motor Vehicles had years to prepare for an influx of people coming in to get their Real IDs and failed.

As a mother taking care of five kids, Nicole Claxton does not have a lot of free time. So when she had to renew her driver’s license through the DMV she figured doing it online could save time.

“I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of waiting for two or three hours at the DMV,” Claxton told FOX40.

That was back on Jan. 4. On Wednesday, nearly three months later, she still hasn’t gotten her ID and has been carrying an expired license.

“I am frustrated because it does prevent me from booking a hotel room or buying certain things. I can’t do things,” Claxton said.

Wednesday afternoon, an audit report from the California Department of Finance showed Claxton was not alone in her complaints about inefficiency at the DMV. The audit called the DMV weak in its governance structure and culture. It highlighted deficiencies and poor customer service.

“Those are pretty significant findings when you take into consideration that they get $1.2 billion from the state of California,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno.

Patterson has been playing the role of watchdog over the DMV, trying to address what’s in the report. It showed at some locations 30 percent of windows had no employees working in them and wait times were often hours long.

Patterson says the agency misled customers about those wait times.

“We’re facing a real problem here. Twenty million Californians who have to have Real IDs haven’t gone through the process yet,” he told FOX40.

The audit recommended the DMV outsource its workload, allow people to set up appointments from their cell phones without coming in or establishing kiosks to replace DMV offices.

Patterson proposed outside services like AAA handle some DMV tasks, like license and registration renewals.

“I think it’s perfectly appropriate to suggest I don’t have confidence or trust here,” Patterson said.

The assemblyman said the DMV has a long way to go to regain the public’s trust, especially for those like Claxton still waiting on the agency to deliver.

One positive Assemblyman Patterson mentioned is that he believes Gov. Gavin Newsom has been much more aggressive in his approach to fixing the DMV’s issues. He said frankly that former Gov. Jerry Brown would not even return his phone calls about DMV issues.

The DMV responded to the audit with the following statement:

The Department of Motor Vehicles is at a period of transition, it’s my expectation that the Department will fully implement the Department of Finance audit findings, continue work to streamline processes and improve the overall customer experience for all Californians. 

Through these findings, along with upcoming recommendations by the DMV Strike Team, I am confident that the DMV will see improvement for both staff and customers in the years ahead.


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