Gov. Cooper's secret DMV
This summer we've been treated to various reports of long lines at DMV offices around the state. People had to stand in line for four or five hours just to get a ticket to get INSIDE the building - where they could wait another hour.
The long lines have been attributed to students getting licenses before returning to school, along with people trying to get the federally-mandated REAL IDs.
But if you're a state employee in Raleigh, you had access to a secret DMV office.
Until WBTV's Nick Ochsner found out about it, at least:
The office was operated by appointment only and select state employees were invited to sign up for an appointment.
A list of employees who signed up to get a license at the office in August shows senior staff from the office of Governor Roy Cooper, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and employees at NCDOT took advantage of the opportunity.
Appointments were scheduled in 20-minute increments.
In Ochsner's first story, the DMV spokesman clearly denied - on camera - that such an office exists.
“Hi, we’re here to talk to you about the driver’s license office on the third floor,” the reporter said.
“There is no driver’s license office on the third floor,” DMV spokesman John Brockwell responded.
But eventually he reversed course - acknowledging that the office does exist for state employees to sign up and get their REAL IDs.
But Brockwell denied they were giving "special privileges to certain people," while also admitting that regular citizens could not simply walk in off the street and use the office.
He denied it was "special treatment" - but then said it was DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup's idea to open the office up for select state emeployees.
And yesterday, the story blew up, leaving Cooper Administration officials stumbling over themselves trying to explain how this TOTALLY wasn't a special secret office for select state employees to skip long lines that all of us lowly folks have to wait in.
On Tuesday, in response to WBTV's story, the DMV issued a press release saying the secret office operated out of its headquarters was part of a mobile program where an RV visited locations across the state for people to obtain ID's.
But documents provided by a DMV spokesman didn't include any mention of the secret office in the two-page list of planned locations for the mobile office.
Later, when questioned why the DMV secret office wasn't on the list of locations operated as part of the mobile office program, a spokesman reversed his previous assertion that the secret office was part of that program.
"I am also told the lists are for the mobile units and the RV's that go out, which is why the DMV HQ is not on it as it was not a traveling setup," spokesman Steve Abbott said in an email.
The secret DMV office is NOT part of the mobile program - which has been around for years and I'm told was generally sent to rural areas where DMV services are harder to get.
Sending mobile units to large employers is NOT part of a newly-created operation for select state employees and their friends and family.
Republican lawmakers and staffers say they had no idea about the perk, when the Governor's spokeswoman tried to drag the General Assembly into the story:
I work there and I never heard a word about this program. Seems like @RoyCooperNC was setting up a private club for his friends and employees to skip the lines. Maybe he should focus a little more on getting resources to Hurricane Matthew victims instead. #NCGA #NCPOL https://t.co/VB5m2RZlRn— Brent Woodcox (@BrentWoodcox) August 28, 2018
I got my Real ID in Burnsville NC. I waited in line like everyone else. I was there early in the morning.— Michele Presnell (@RepPresnell) August 29, 2018
What are we to make of this note that says they didn't actually stop at the legislature this year? pic.twitter.com/a1bpAELrzV— Nick Ochsner (@NickOchsnerWBTV) August 29, 2018
I suspect the Governor's office is counting on this story getting buried after today, which is why they shut down the office and mobile unit program.
You don't do that if the effort was defensible.
Asheville gets police beating report
The Asheville City Council met last night in a marathon session.
The big news was the report by a private consultant that looked into the "Johnnie Rush Beating."
Also, the Council approved an electric shuttle & tour company - called Tuk It - to operate downtown, the River Arts District, the Historic Montford District, and Biltmore Village.
This is what the vehicle looks like:
But, wait! There's more!
UPS driver unable to deliver package to Asheville house - cites "Bear in driveway."
Gov. Cooper filed another lawsuit trying to prevent voters from deciding whether to change the state contitution.