RMV board asks for watchdog’s help
Invites inspector general to keep an eye on things
THE QUASI-INDEPENDENT board tasked with overseeing the state’s driver’s license database asked for a little help from the inspector general on Wednesday, and took some steps towards hiring a new permanent director.
It was only the second meeting of the Merit Rating Board in several years and the first since the organization publicly fired Tom Bowes, the former director. Bowes subsequently finished a distant fourth in the preliminary election for mayor of Braintree.
The long-defunct board housed within the Registry of Motor Vehicles was thrown into the spotlight after systemic problems were uncovered this summer with how the registry handles out-of-state infractions. Before Bowes’s ouster, the merit rating office let notifications about Massachusetts drivers from other states pile up unaddressed.
Paul Franzese, the merit rating office’s interim director who is on loan from the Division of Insurance, said after the meeting that he would be open to seeking the permanent post.
“Right now I’m focused on the interim position, and I’m grateful for the trust the board has put in me for right now,” Franzese said. “And if that’s something that if they want to consider, then I’d consider it based on the evaluation of my job performance and their feedback.”
With a budget of about $9 million and a staff of about 70, the merit rating office is responsible for maintaining an accurate database of driver records that can be used by the insurance industry to adjust premiums.
The board consists of Division of Insurance Commissioner Gary Anderson, Assistant Attorney General Glenn Kaplan, and Acting Registrar Jamey Tesler, who was delegated by the other two to find an acting director. Tesler’s selection of Franzese was announced on Aug. 22.
Much of Wednesday’s meeting was focused on developing the job description for the permanent position, and going over the logistics of the hiring process with Boris Lazic, MassDOT’s chief human resources officer.
Kaplan had repeatedly called for meetings of the rating board during its unexplained years-long hiatus, and he seemed eager Wednesday to exert his authority as a board member, suggesting changes to the job description and raising the idea of giving the inspector general a new role in the office.
Applicants for the position of merit rating director should “understand the importance of communicating with the board and board members,” said Kaplan, who also asked for access to any applications that come through MassDOT – even if they are rejected by the screening committee. Lazic couldn’t say how many total applications he expects to receive.
Anderson questioned whether the additional staff might create an “unsure bureaucratic process,” and asked whether the inspector general’s staff would be in place indefinitely. Kaplan said he didn’t want to put a time limit on the idea, and said the organizational chain-of-command would remain unchanged. Anderson finally said he doesn’t “necessarily have qualms with the idea,” and voted to support it.
Similar to the Merit Rating Board, Inspector General Glenn Cuhna reports to three different officials in state government. By statute, the inspector general is appointed to a five-year term by a majority vote of the governor, the state auditor, and the attorney general.
Placing one of the inspector general’s staff within the merit rating office would provide an “additional check,” said Kaplan before the three-member board unanimously agreed to ask Cunha for someone to keep tabs on the office and provide reports to the Merit Rating Board.The board also agreed to plan on meeting every other Wednesday. At the next meeting, scheduled for October 9, the board plans to discuss the leadership of the agency going forward.