Agency vendor: Pence unjustified in contract cancellation

A private license branch operator for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles objects to Gov. Mike Pence's decision last week not to renew its contract with the state, it said in a two-page statement released to the media.

The statement from Express MVA, which specializes in processing titles and registrations on behalf of auto dealers, comes after a request last week by Pence for a top Bureau of Motor Vehicles official who's now working for the company to be investigated for possible ethics violations, The Indianapolis Star reported. Shawn Walters, the state agency's former chief of staff, took a newly created job at Express MVA after allowing the company to charge customers a "convenience fee" whose legality has been questioned.

Express MVA calls Pence's move to cancel its contract with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles "discriminatory action" that's "unjustified and wrong." In the statement, the company also accuses the governor of effectively eliminating 40 jobs and closing a business that generated $12 million annually, while allowing competitors with similar Bureau of Motor Vehicles contracts to continue operating.

The company said its efforts to meet with the Pence administration have been unsuccessful.

The governor's office recently issued a short statement to address the complaints in Express MVA's statement.

"Gov. Pence is committed to ensuring ethical transparency at the (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) and that's why he asked for the investigation," Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said.

She said the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is working to set up a meeting with Express MVA.

Express MVA also defends its decision to hire Walters, saying in its statement that the company followed recommendations from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to avoid conflicts of interest.

Those recommendations are included in a letter written to Walters by Bureau of Motor Vehicles attorney Patrick Price last August, after Walters had begun working for Express MVA as its chief operations officer. In the letter, Price warns Walters that state ethics law prohibits him from handling any BMV-related matters on behalf of his new employer, since he "took a personal and substantial role in negotiating Express MVA's contract with the (BMV)" as the agency's chief of staff.

Express MVA said in its statement that the company is prepared to assist the state in its ethics investigation.

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