Minnesota’s multimillion-dollar computer system for vehicle licensing took another hit when a state official crucial to its development was fired, but he went out with a scathing rebuke of the system.
The state has invested at least $93 million to build the system, which has been plagued by backlogs, leading to long lines for the public. The Department of Public Safety is asking the state for another $43 million to fix the ongoing problems.
Paul Meekin, most recently the chief business technology officer for the department, was fired Friday, four months after being placed on a leave of absence.
In a statement, Meekin blamed Gov. Mark Dayton’s office and the Legislature for “finger pointing and blame assigning” instead of finding solutions for the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS).
“The success of a government project — and especially a large-scale IT project like MNLARS — never rests in the hands of just one person,” he said in a statement. “It’s a disservice to the people of Minnesota to give the impression that by putting a head on a spike, the problem will be solved. Nothing could be further from the truth. ... Tearing apart [Minnesota IT Services] and its people is not the answer.”
Meekin, who has worked for the state for 11 years, said he disagrees with his firing and is considering legal options.
Minnesota IT Services, known as MNIT, which serves as the technology agency for the state’s executive branch, confirmed Meekin’s last day of employment was Friday. The agency had no further comment.
Since MNLARS debuted in July, complaints have flooded in from people who say they’ve waited months to receive vehicle titles or weeks to receive new tabs. Others have been unable to transfer specialty plates to new cars, including handicapped plates.
In January, MNIT and the public safety department, which are in charge of the system, requested an additional $43 million to fix it, including $10 million by March 1.
When the deadline passed without an influx of cash, the state agencies sent out notices to contractors that the agencies would have to lay them off at the end of the month.
Without new funding, defects and gaps in the system’s functionality will persist and they will not be able to add some of the new features and functions previously planned, according to the state agencies overseeing the project.
“I understand the Legislature has a hard job to do, however, this system is too important to stop improving, and we need to cross the finish line. We owe it to the people of Minnesota to get this done, and done right,” MNIT Commissioner Johanna Clyborne said in a statement after the notices were sent out.
State lawmakers are debating whether the state can continue down the bumpy road of building its own system or should hire a private company to take over the job.
“I don’t think that there is any question that we’re going to have to spend more money,” Senate Transportation Chairman Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said earlier this month. “The real question is: What are we going to spend it on?”