Stark County auditor says that was only one factor in decision to get out of the BMV business.
State investigations revealed multiple violations of Bureau of Motor Vehicles policies at the license bureau operated by Stark County Auditor Alan Harold.
In a written report last fall, an investigator noted the staff had no confidence in the woman who managed the agency for Harold, because she violated BMV procedures. The report referred to the staff-management trust as "very tense and unsettling." It also stated "the investigation has revealed gross violations when processing transactions."
Harold, a Republican elected auditor in 2010, plans to seek re-election this year.
The license bureau at 3187 Whitewood St. NW in Plain Township is one of six in the county where motorists can obtain driver's licenses and vehicle license plates. Unlike this one, others are privately-owned and operated under similar contracts with the BMV.
Last week, Harold confirmed the auditor's office was getting out of the license bureau business. BMV spokesman Lindsey Bohrer said her agency had received a resignation letter from Harold. She said Joseph Burgess, another experienced local agency operator would take over the Whitewood location the week of Jan. 19.
This week, Harold said the investigations were one of many factors that led to his decision, but added he was not asked to resign.
"The ball was always in our court," he said.
The state investigator took his findings to a Canton city prosecutor who found no criminal wrongdoing. Among allegations contained in reports dated Sept. 24 and Dec. 11, the bureau manager:
• Allowed a customer's driver's license birth date change without seeing a birth certificate.
• Approved a customer's gender change on a driver's license without required forms being filed.
• Made changes to a driver's license without original required identification documents.
• Instructed an employee to notarize signed customer documents without the customers present.
When interviewed by the investigator, the manager denied or provided no explanation for the allegations, according to the report. She declined comment when reached by the Repository.
Harold said his office disagreed with some of the findings. He said those allegations in themselves aren't the reason his office is exiting the business. He said it was a culmination of three years' worth of communication problems with BMV.
"I just never felt our interests were aligned," he said. "They look to play 'Got-you games.' I can spend time and effort trying to fix this ... or just concentrate on other things we have to do."
He said none of the incidents was malicious — that the manager wasn't trying to help someone create a fake ID.
In addition, Harold said, BMV officials wanted him to personally sign indemnity for the license bureau for the renewal of the lease, though he didn't personally profit from the business.
The BMV, he said, also made him double the number of full-time employees there in 2012, to keep up with increased traffic, which cut profits to the county from $111,000 in 2011 to $55,000 last year.
County auditors are responsible for everything from calculating real estate tax rates to issuing vendor licenses. Harold said the county first entered the BMV business six years ago during former Auditor Kim Perez's term; it was one of only a handful of bureaus operated by county auditors.
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