BMV lawyers defend embattled state agency

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Lawyers for the embattled Bureau of Motor Vehicles are speaking out this week in the ongoing legal battles over overcharges by the state agency.

Attorneys from Indianapolis firm Bingham Greenebaum Doll, retained by the state in February, say BMV officials are doing everything they can to identify problems with drivers' fees and fix them. But Wayne Turner and Carl Hayes, the pair working on the BMV suit, said Tuesday in an interview that their efforts are being stifled by plaintiffs trying to lock them up in court battles.

The public comments mark a new tactic for the state, which has avoided comment on the lawsuit until this week.

The BMV has been embroiled in problems since it was uncovered last year that the agency had overcharged for drivers licenses. Since then, other agency-wide fee-related problems have been discovered. Republican Gov. Mike Pence ordered an outside audit of the agency earlier this month after state workers discovered $29 million in overcharges on excise taxes.

Irwin Levin, who is leading the latest BMV lawsuit against the state, has argued that the overcharges are part of a systemic problem inside an agency that was seeking to make ends meet during budget struggles. In court filings, Levin has also argued the state is dragging its feet in providing critical information.

But Turner said the state turned over thousands of documents to Levin on Tuesday. Those documents, he said, prove that there was no concerted effort to overcharge drivers.

"Nobody says we're intentionally overcharging people; nobody says we're trying to cover everything up," he said.

Levin said Thursday that the approach from the state is designed to distract from extensive problems.

"They don't want to tell the public how far back they've been overcharging," he said. "Government shouldn't be in the business of taking other people's money and then raising obstacles."

The problems at the BMV stretch back at least to 2004, when the state moved to a new system for crafting and administering fees.

The two sides were in court Wednesday fighting over the release of further information in the case.

That hearing followed the release of depositions by former BMV Commissioner Scott Waddell and former BMV deputy director Mike Foley. Foley, in his 88-page deposition, said that BMV leaders knew about the overcharges as early as 2010, but chose not to correct them.

The BMV argues that Levin is selectively editing video of the depositions and leaking it to Indianapolis new outlets. Levin said he released the complete depositions that are publicly available.

Meanwhile, efforts to settle the lawsuit have stalled. Turner and Hayes said they have sought a meeting with Levin to discuss a resolution to the current lawsuit but have been unable to get one. Levin said he has sought a meeting with Turner and Hayes.

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