Pat Reed is the Commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Jennifer Carpenter-Peak is a resident of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.
Carpenter-Peak received a notice in the mail saying her vehicle registration was up for renewal and it would cost her $30.
She checked the $30 box and sent in her check.
A few weeks later, Carpenter-Peak gets her check sent back to her with a letter from the DMV.
“Dear DMV Customer,” the letter reads. “Your one year renewal application is being returned to you for the additional $21.50 fee.”
Turns out that at the end of June, the state legislature hiked the DMV registration from $30 a year to $51.50 a year. Governor Jim Justice signed the hike into law on June 22 — effective July 1.
But Pat Reed, the Commissioner of the DMV, had already sent out about 200,000 notices to DMV customers telling them that the fee was $30.
And about 180,000 of those customers — including Carpenter-Peak — marked the $30 box and sent in their checks.
Reed says that the DMV returned those 180,000 $30 checks with a note asking for $21.50 more.
She said she had no choice.
Did the legislature tell Reed that she should return all of those checks?
“They don’t tell me how to operate my business,” Reed said. “They just tell me what I have to do. And the legislature said — effective July 1, you will collect 51.50.”
“I am not in front of the legislature,” Reed said. “They send me the law. And I follow it. I am the administrator of the law. I did not make the law or question them on what they did.”
But since these 180,000 West Virginians were billed $30, for them, couldn’t you just leave it at that?
“No,” Reed said.
Reed said that she consulted with attorneys and they advised there was no way around it.
“I’ve had lawyers look at it,” Reed said. “I had no choice. I am the administrator of the state law. The state law says July 1 you will pay $51.50. We did everything possible. We were on 27 different medias that week with a press release and everything to tell people — this is happening. You are going to owe $51.50 starting July 1. If you do it by Friday night (June 30), you can still pay $30.”
Carpenter-Peak said she was “bewildered, then irritated, then extremely dismayed at the waste and inefficiency that this has caused the citizens of our state.”
“Raising the fee is not unreasonable,” Carpenter-Peak wrote in a letter to Reed. “The audacity of spending taxpayer money to actually send back the paperwork upon which the DMV has the fee amount clearly printed and then re-processing the registration is staggering. “
Carpenter-Peak said that the letter she got from the DMV had Governor Jim Justice’s name on it.
The Governor’s press office did not return calls seeking comment.
“The letter was not signed, and the contact phone number leads only to recorded information,” Peak wrote. “I am appalled that there is not a clearly stated author taking responsibility for this.”