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Deposition challenges timing of BMV overcharges

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A former deputy director at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles says he told agency leaders as early as 2010 that many BMV fees exceeded what was authorized under Indiana law but that the agency kept overcharging Hoosiers for at least two years to avoid budget troubles.

Matthew Foley's allegations are included in an 88-page deposition taken as part of a class action lawsuit against the BMV in Marion Superior Court. The suit seeks to recoup $30 million to $40 million that the BMV overcharged Indiana motorists for personalized license plates, vehicle registrations and other services, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Foley's statements contradict those of former chief of staff and BMV Commissioner Scott Waddell, whose own deposition stated that the first indication of possible overcharges came when a lawsuit over drivers' license fees was filed in March 2013.

"We were completely blindsided by it," Waddell said.

The lawsuit alleges the BMV concealed and continued the overcharges. If Foley's allegations are proven true, limits on the time period for which customers can seek refunds would be voided. Absent that "fraudulent concealment," the statute of limitations would allow refunds going back only six to 10 years.

BMV spokesman Josh Gillespie declined to comment, saying the agency does not discuss pending litigation.

Foley also said agency officials didn't want to cut fees or refund customers and instead tried to rewrite regulations to match what was being charged.

"There was a concern that the BMV would need to potentially lay off employees or go back to the well and borrow money again when they had very publicly repaid the last of its government — or state-borrowed loans the prior year," he said.

The new regulations never took effect, and the overcharges continued until last year.

Foley's warnings — via email, meetings and other communications with BMV officials — occurred during the administration of former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who prided himself on efforts to professionalize the BMV and end its long wait times.

State budget documents show that from 2006 to 2013, the BMV returned more than $47.6 million in unspent funds from its budgets.

The BMV acknowledged last June that it had overcharged drivers for operator licenses. In November, it agreed to refund $30 million to motorists in a separate class action lawsuit involving those charges. Indianapolis law firm Cohen & Malad collected $6.3 million in fees in that case.

The agency also has admitted overcharging dozens of other fees, ranging from $11 on antique vehicle registrations to 50 cents on motorcycle endorsements for operator licenses.

BMV officials have said they didn't realize motorists were overpaying until March 2013 and were unaware of the scope of the problems until an independent review concluded last fall.

Gerry Lanosga, president of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government, said Foley's deposition raises questions about the BMV and called for an investigation by the state inspector general.

"Citizens have a right to expect an agency that discovers a problem like this to make it public and do something to fix it," he said.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Pence declined comment.

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