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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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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

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  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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