Michael Hartman, the executive director for the Colorado Department of Revenue has apologized after the DMV erroneously sent letters to suspend or revoke driving privileges for dozens of people.
To make matters worse, the DMV was sending notices to hit-and-run crash victims while in many cases, the suspects got away.
Our investigation began back in August with a man named Michael Johnson.
Johnson was homeless and carrying groceries back to his shelter when he was hit in the middle of a crosswalk.
Police wrote in their report that he had the right of way.
Days later, the DMV sent him in a letter to revoke his license even though he was not driving a car.
After we started asking questions, we learned 78 additional innocent people were put in similar situations.
“Nobody wants to do their job right,” Johnson told News 5 back in August. “How many other people has this happened to?”
In order to get his license back, Johnson had to show up to a formal hearing at the DMV.
“Basically being the victim in the incident, I have been having to defend myself as to why I was the victim.” he said.
Xachary Kleinschmidt is yet another victim. He was struck while riding his bike near Northpark and Garden of the Gods back on Aug. 8.
“As soon as I had gotten in the middle of the crosswalk a car was coming, taking a left turn onto Northpark and had hit me on my right side,” he explained.
In one photograph provided to News 5, you could clearly see what appears to be tire impression marks on his clothing.
In both cases, the drivers left the scene before police arrived. Like Johnson, Kleinschmidt received a letter from the DMV.
“I was kind of really confused,” Kleinschmidt said. “I wasn’t sure why that would be the case because I was the victim. I was the one who had gotten hit.”
On Aug. 25, News 5 started asking questions about these mix-ups.
In September, the Department of Revenue did an audit and found a total of 79 drivers received incorrect suspension or revocation notices.
The State blames the problem on a “computer software glitch”.
“Implementing any new software package, you’re going to come across technical difficulties that are unexpected,” DOR Executive Director Michael Hartman said.
Hartman explained the problem centered around how 12 law enforcement agencies across the state electronically uploaded accident reports.
In many hit-and-run cases, the suspect is “unknown”, so a name is not listed under “Driver 1” in the typed accident report.
Consequently, the DMV’s computer system defaulted to the name listed in the next field, which was the “victim”. That’s how the victim ended up being labeled as an “at fault” driver.
“I wouldn’t be happy either about this,” Hartman said. “It’s an unfortunate inconvenience to have to go in (to the DMV)–whether it’s a line situation or just having to take time out of your day to go in and deal with an error, it’s something we don’t want to have happen within our drivers license offices,” Hartman said. “We want to get it right!”
The DMV has since modified its program so this doesn’t happen again.
We also noticed in at least two cases, Colorado Springs police listed the hit-and-run victim as a “driver” in the officer’s narrative, which they were not.
News 5 Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross asked Hartman whether this “error” played any role in the DOR’s determination in revoking or suspending a license.
“That’s exactly what happened,” Hartman said.
The Colorado Springs Police Department is looking into whether their reporting system can or should be adjusted.
In the meantime, we asked Hartman whether there is a possibility more people could be impacted?
“I’m very certain that we solved this specific issue,” Hartman said. “Again, as you roll out new software packages, it is possible we will find other issues.”
We’re told Johnson was the only victim who had to schedule a hearing to get his license reinstated. The DMV was able to contact the other 78 victims prior to a hearing being scheduled. However, Kleinschmidt questions whether these errors could have been avoided in the first place.
“The police should have made sure the report was correct and the DMV should read the whole report before sending out mail like that,” he said.
At last check, police had not identified the hit-and-run driver in Kleinschmidt’s case.
Johnson was able to take a picture of the license plate of the car that hit him which police used to track down the registered owner. Police ultimately decided in this particular case not to issue tickets or make any arrests. News 5 sent additional questions about this case to police Thursday afternoon. Lt. Black told News 5 management he was working on this request.
If we get new information, we’ll be sure to pass it along to you online at KOAA.com.
Hit and run statistics for CSPD:
2014: 3,253 calls for service
2015: 3,914 calls for service
2016: 4,410 calls for service
Arrests/tickets issued by CSPD:
In 2014, police took action and solved just under 19-percent of hit-and-run cases. That percentage dropped to 15-percent in 2015 and again in 2016 to 13-percent.