Report: Official Knew of Vehicle Licensing System Problems

April 06, 2018 11:12 AM

The video above aired earlier this week.


An outside investigator has found that the information technology official overseeing Minnesota's troubled vehicle licensing system was aware of numerous issues but failed to address them.

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An investigation by Everett & VanderWiel law firm found that Paul Meekin didn't fulfill expectations related to pre-launch testing and management responsibilities, such as communication and staffing. The firm interviewed Meekin and 20 other people considered witnesses.

RELATED: After Weeks of Clashing, Lawmakers Move on MNLARS Funding

A redacted copy of the report can be found here. 

Minnesota IT Services launched the $93 million Minnesota Licensing and Registration System, or MNLARS, in July. The system immediately faced problems, including processing delays for license and title transactions.

Meekin was informed that testing might not be completed before the system's launch and "did not exercise reasonable diligence in addressing the concern," according to the report. Investigators found that Meekin didn't provide meaningful oversight, fostered an environment that didn't allow for decisions to be questioned and didn't have enough state employees.

Meekin said he didn't know of the system's code problems prior to its launch. Making one person solely responsible for the system's problems will only result in more IT issues, he said.

"The underlying premise that fueled this investigation — that the success of a large-scale IT project like MNLARS rests in the hands of one person — is fundamentally flawed," Meekin said in a statement to MPR. "This report underscores the governor's office and Legislature's unwillingness to look at the real and serious systemic issues that plague State IT projects."

RELATED: State IT Dept's Spending Raises Lawmaker Eyebrows in Light of MNLARS Issues

Minnesota IT Services fired Meekin last month as the agency's chief business technology officer. He was on leave from the position since November.

MNIT Commissioner Johanna Clyborne responded to the story with the following statement: 

As Commissioner of MNIT Services, I take seriously our responsibility to carefully review and act upon lessons learned from challenges with the MNLARS project.  With the assistance of an independent external investigator, a complete investigation was conducted concerning Paul Meekin's performance on the MNLARS project. This investigation substantiated that there was a failure to lead and perform. As a result, Paul Meekin was discharged from his position as Chief Business Technology Officer (CBTO) on March 9, 2018.

I carefully reviewed every page of this report. I was disappointed by its findings, and am personally committed to improving the management and performance of MNIT Services. These findings do not reflect the expectations that we have of a Chief Business Technology Officer, or any leader within MNIT. MNIT has many dedicated employees who every day do the right thing, for the right reasons. I am proud of the work we do to provide world-class IT services to our customers. However, we can do better. 

I acknowledge that all IT projects require a careful balance of risk, money, and time – and no IT project rolls out 100% defect-free – but it is unacceptable to see a project fail due to a lack of leadership or adherence to IT best practices.

Over the last couple of months, the leadership of both MNIT and the MNLARS project has been overhauled.  I have taken swift, decisive actions to rectify the shortcomings highlighted in this report agency wide.  I still have a ways to go, but I am already seeing the positive effects. I will continue implementing additional changes, to ensure the lessons learned through this investigation yield the results and accountability Minnesotans deserve.  As Commissioner, I will hold our agency to a much higher standard of trust and performance.  I will continue to choose the harder right than the easier wrong, even if it is an unpopular position to take, to ensure informed decisions are made.

Meekin said in a statement last month that he's considering his legal options.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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