Bureaucracy: We can’t afford business as usual

Effective tomorrow, West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Pat Reed is retiring, though one gets the impression she may have believed she did not have much choice in the matter. Reed has become the public face of the latest lifting of the veil on the mess that is Charleston bureaucracy.

She is the most recent in a disturbing string of public officials — the vast majority of them not elected — who are being booted out of their comfortable positions because the waste and incompetence (perhaps even outright negligence and fraud) in their office is doing a disservice or even harming West Virginians. In Reed’s case, she is the leader of a division that has repeatedly failed to perform even the basics of what lawmakers require.

Implementation of Motor Voter, the automatic voter registration program that should allow West Virginians to apply for or update voter registration while at the DMV, has been delayed multiple times since 2016. During the most recent legislative session, lawmakers were forced to again extend the date on which automatic voter registration will start, to Sept. 1, 2021.

This time, however, when lawmakers asked Reed why her agency was incapable of completing the task, there were slip ups. DMV staff gave different committees different answers. Whoops.

In addition, there is the matter of missing reports on the progress of the implementation. Reed says they have vanished.

“I don’t think we’re negligent,” she said. “We’ve looked every place trying to find that report. I thought I even remembered signing it. I apologize for that.”

Imagine, for a moment, trying to pull that kind of nonsense with your boss.

She is not alone, of course, there has been a virtual parade of bureaucrats marching out of Charleston as they realize taxpayers will no longer tolerate business as usual. The sheer scope of the problem so far makes it likely there will be several more. The challenge now is for those appointed to take their place to make clear to their staffs that business as usual will no longer be tolerated. If they are uncomfortable with that kind of accountability to the people they serve — us — they had better follow their old bosses out the door.