NCDMV commissioner says secret ‘model office’ not open to public

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The state’s DMV commissioner defended opening an office only for state employees to get IDs in an interview Tuesday, saying there’s “nothing secret about it.”

Commissioner Torre Jessup told CBS 17 the Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh has what’s called a “model office” where employees test out new software.

Beginning in January, DMV invited state employees as well as their friends and family by email to come to the office on select days each month during designated hours to get IDs. This service was not available to anyone else.

Over the course of the summer, long lines became common at DMV sites across the state, leading to some people waiting in line for hours on hot days. Jessup has attributed the issue to a variety of things: computer outages, the usual summer rush and people trying to get a new federally mandated ID called a “REAL ID.” People are required to have that by 2020.

WBTV-TV in Charlotte first reported on the model office, saying employees from the governor’s office as well as the departments of agriculture and transportation utilized it between Aug. 13-16. CBS 17 has requested the DMV provide details on who utilized the service during previous months as well.

“We sent out invitations to these employees to say, ‘Hey you can come here and get your Real ID.’ So, nothing secret about it,” said Jessup. He went on to say the model office will not open to members of the public. “No, we can’t because it’s behind secure doors,” he said.

Kevin Bartee, a DMV customer, said he was surprised to learn about the model office. Though he lives in Raleigh, lines have been too long at DMV offices close to his home.

“If I live here, I shouldn’t have to go to another town to get service,” he said.

The DMV headquarters has a sign outside that reads, “No driver license or ID issued at this location.”

In an email, Jamie Kritzer, who works for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, said the model office was open three hours a day for one week each month between January and March. From April to August, it was open three days each month for three hours on each of those days.

Commissioner Jessup compared the situation to mobile units DMV has utilized at some private businesses, such as SAS and Bank of America.

He said the DMV may utilize the model office again next month.

“That’s a possibility, if it’s a tool that we can use to get people through the process,” he said.

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