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You’re fed up with the DMV? So are Idaho sheriffs. Here’s their letter to Gov. Otter

Computer issues have plagued Idaho’s Division of Motor Vehicles throughout 2017 and 2018, leading to periodic office closures or delays across the state. (Katy Moeller / Idaho Statesman)
Computer issues have plagued Idaho’s Division of Motor Vehicles throughout 2017 and 2018, leading to periodic office closures or delays across the state. (Katy Moeller / Idaho Statesman)
By Cynthia Sewell Idaho Statesman

Idaho’s county sheriffs agree: The Idaho Transportation Department’s new driver’s license software is a wreck.

On Monday, ITD announced yet another breakdown of the system had shut down driver’s license services across the state. The problem, the agency said, was on the software vendor’s side and also affected other states that vendor serves.

At 7:25 a.m. Tuesday, the state agency said on Twitter that the system was back up. But by noon, ITD reversed course and told all sheriff-run DMV offices to “close their doors while troubleshooting continues,” according to a news release.

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office had already sent its DMV staff home by 11 a.m. due to continued problems.

The problems — the latest version of issues that have plagued ITD since last year — have people across the state fuming as they show up to get a driver’s license and are turned away or face hourslong waits.

Now, the sheriffs say they’re upset.

“Unfortunately, the sheriffs of the state of Idaho and their staff have taken the brunt of the customers’ dissatisfaction,” Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue wrote in an Aug. 23 letter to Gov. Butch Otter.

Under Idaho law, county sheriffs are responsible for providing drivers’ license services, even though the system is run through ITD.

“The vast majority of the sheriffs in the state of Idaho feel that it is time for this state to consider removing driver’s license as a function of the sheriff and move it squarely to ITD where it belongs,” Donahue wrote. “We are only one of a few states where the sheriff is legally mandated to perform this function.”

Donahue included in his letter comments and concerns he received in just one week from more than half of Idaho’s 44 sheriff’s departments. The feedback “reflects the frustration of sheriffs and their staff and the less-than-stellar responses by ITD,” he wrote.

Here are samples of the comments:

“ITD has been brutal to work with and has no sense of the impact on the Sheriff’s Office or our citizens. They need an overhaul in a major way with their leadership and supervision. Idaho citizens deserve far better service,” said Ada County Sheriff Steve Bartlett.

“The software, the customer service, the entire system is broken and I don’t want to have any part of it,” said Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger.

“My folks have been on hold to get help for over an hour. I am about sick and tired of this new system already,” said Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland.

“(T)he help number on the card was wrong and second number was not set up. The help desk at ITD was unmanned because they were at training. Incompetents,” said Teton County Sheriff Tony Liford.

“(L)ots of problems. We can’t open this morning. The public is mad as usual,” said Power County Sheriff Jim Jeffries.

Donahue concluded his letter: “As sheriff, and as taxpayer, I am furious 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.”

Donahue then asked for a meeting with the governor to further discuss the issues.

ITD responded to Donahue in a letter Tuesday.

“I understand and share the frustration by sheriffs and their staff,” wrote Alberto Gonzalez, Division of Motor Vehicles administrator.

Gonzalez said he believes the issues “go beyond technology,” and questioned whether counties effectively trained their employees ahead of time for the new system.

“Transaction revenues, staffing, facilities, training and business hours and days all contribute to the customer experience,” Gonzalez wrote. “We hear repeatedly that what sheriffs collect from transactions does not cover the cost to operate a driver’s license office. … This is a valid concern that warrants further discussion.”

ITD has offered to meet with the sheriffs association and county commissioners “to explore various solutions.”

The Statesman has reached out to Otter for comment. Meanwhile, the sheriffs have scheduled a press conference Tuesday afternoon to further air their concerns.

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