Executive Director of Texas DMV Steps Down Amid Criticism

Whitney Brewster
Whitney Brewster. | Image by Aspergers101.com

Whitney Brewster, executive director of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV), announced she is stepping down after more than nine years on the job in a TxDMV press release earlier this month.

“It is with heavy and mixed emotions that I write to you today to announce my departure from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles,” Brewster said in the press release.

The TxDMV is a state agency whose mission is “to serve, protect and advance the citizens and industries in the state with quality motor vehicle-related services, according to the “About” page on its website. Established by legislature in 2009, the agency began operations on November 1, 2009.

Every year, the TxDMV registers nearly 24 million vehicles, regulates vehicle dealers, certifies buses and large trucks for intrastate and interstate commerce, issues oversize and overweight permits, and provides grants to law enforcement agencies to help reduce vehicle burglaries and thefts.

Brewster’s resignation from the agency comes as she and the department face criticism for failing to quickly address a security flaw that allegedly allowed rampant abuse of the system that car dealers use to issue temporary paper tags for vehicles.

According to a recent investigation by NBC 5, criminals within car dealerships were allegedly using the system to create counterfeit paper tags selling them for profit. According to one estimate, more than 1.2 million fake tags are on the road.

The tags were apparently noticeably fake, as they were created using fraudulent VIN numbers that included special characters such as periods, exclamation points, and dollar signs.

When asked about the flaw in December, Brewster said “[The system] does not stop special characters. That is that defect that is being worked on now and the solution to that defect will be implemented as soon as possible.”

The TxDMV told NBC 5 that the defect had been eliminated on December 6, after the problem was identified in late November.

However, David Kohler, a sheriff’s deputy from central Texas, told NBC 5 that law enforcement had warned the DMV of the loophole in the system in 2019, and it had not been fixed.

Brewster said in her resignation letter that the state and TxDMV face many challenges, but noted that she “understands the frustrations of [their] stakeholders [regarding] the problems and evolving situations the organization works daily to resolve.”

The former Executive Director expressed that her decision was a difficult one, but that she felt it was the best thing for the department.

“A decade ago, I returned to Texas to lead this amazing organization full of talented and dedicated public servants,” she said. “Often the hardest thing to do as a public servant leader is to step back and accept that you have done everything you can and that it might be time to allow new leadership to take the reins and continue moving the agency successfully into the future.”

Brewster further added, “We have strong leadership at all levels throughout TxDMV, and I have worked continuously to bring in and promote fresh perspectives and new ideas to complement the experienced subject matter experts that we rely on to accomplish our mission and goals.”

Shelly Mellott, deputy executive director, will serve as acting interim executive director until the TxDMV Board finds a permanent replacement.

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