Thursday, August 13, 2015

Express MVA Places Former BMV Employees On Unpaid Leave After State Terminates Contract

Officials at Express MVA complained that Gov. Mike Pence discriminated against their company when he terminated their contract with the BMV to operate partial BMV branches following an Indianapolis Star report on the company hiring the agency's former chief of staff, who signed an amended contract with the company, before he left his employment with the state. That same employee had rebuffed a subordinate employee's complaint the agency was charging higher fees to motorists than permitted under state law. Those overcharges led to class action lawsuits, which resulted in tens of millions in refunds being issued and millions paid out in attorney fees.

It turns out that Express MVA had not only hired former BMV chief of staff Shawn Walters but also another employee, Robert "Pete" Wood, who had responsibilities administering Express MVA's contract while employed by the state. This was actually the second time Wood was employed by Express MVA. He left the BMV to work for the company in 2012. He later left his job there and returned to work at the BMV before returning to work at Express MVA in May. Express MVA officials now tell the Indianapolis Star the company has placed both Walters and Wood on unpaid leave pending the outcome of a state ethics investigation Gov. Pence requested to determine if any state laws were broken.

Interestingly, Wood, unlike Walters, actually obtained an advisory opinion from the state Inspector General's office before accepting his employment with Express MVA, which found everything to be kosher. That approval came despite the fact Wood oversaw Express MVA's contract to ensure compliance and to report any problems to his supervisor. The IG's office determined there was no problem with Wood accepting employment at the agency's vendor he oversaw because he had no authority to make decisions regarding their contract in the event he uncovered compliance problems in the course of his work.

The Star says Walters had substantial interaction with BMV employees while working at Express MVA until he was notified by attorneys with the state to cease those contacts. Walters waited more than a year after the state's post-employment cooling off period had ended following his work at the BMV before going to work for Express BMV, although he sought no advisory opinion regarding his proposed employment. He worked as chief of staff for FSSA after leaving the BMV before accepting employment as Express MVA's chief operating officer The company's owner, Kevin Calvert, claimed Walters worked for $60,000 a year as chief operations officer, or less than half the $125,000 he earned as chief of staff at the BMV. Wood, who says he had no interaction with BMV employees in his new job, says he earned about $13,000 to $14,000 more working in his private sector employer than he earned at the BMV.

Calvert told The Star that approximately 40 full-time jobs at Express MVA may be jeopardized as a result of the loss of the BMV contract. He says the company was earning about $6 million a year from convenience fees it was permitted to charge its customers, which are up to three times the fees charged by the BMV for the same transactions. Express MVA's customers are primarily high-volume users, such as banks, automobile dealers, insurance companies and auction houses.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The one year cooling off period for state employees begins not when you leave a state agency but when you leave state government. The one year cooling off period for the employee in question should have been one year after he left FSSA not BMV.