Minnesota vehicle licensing mess claims top developer

A top state official involved with developing the troubled new $90 million computer system for vehicle licensing is no longer working on the project.

Paul Meekin, the chief business technology officer for Minnesota IT Services, is on a leave of absence and not available, a spokesperson for the state agency said. She would not elaborate.

Reached at his home, Meekin also declined to comment.

“He appeared before our committee numerous times during session, and was one of the staff that assured us that the program was ready to go prior to rollout,” said Rep. Paul Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, the chair of the House transportation committee. “As it turned out, that was not the case.”

The agency confirmed that it is making several changes to the management structure for the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS). The changes include the hiring of a new, yet-to-be-named software development manager and the hiring of Dana Bailey, a former aide to St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Gov. Mark Dayton, as executive director of projects and initiatives.

In addition, the agency’s chief enterprise architect, Joan Redwing, was assigned to the project

Officials are also hiring an outside vendor to work on the next phase of the project, which includes Real ID-compliant drivers licenses.

MNLARS has been plagued by problems since it went online last summer. Customers are still experiencing difficulties with plate, tab and title transaction

Meekin was involved with MNLARS from its early stages. He was listed as the project director in 2009 and 2010 and was part of the project steering committee in later years. Meekin is part of the executive leadership team at Minnesota IT Services and works as the chief business technology officer for the Department of Public Safety.

Meekin appeared before the House transportation committee in September to answer questions about the system’s rocky rollout. He was expected to appear at last week’s Senate transportation committee hearing on the same subject but did not show.

The committee chair, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, noted the absence.

“If we ask for staff to be here to answer our questions, I would appreciate it if they would be here,” Newman said.

Tom Baden, commissioner of Minnesota IT Services, said during the same hearing that, in hindsight, he should have held off on the July launch of MNLARS. Baden also told lawmakers that he was making several staff and organizational changes.

“We’re taking this very seriously, very urgently,” Baden said.

Gov. Mark Dayton recently apologized for the inconveniences MNLARS has caused to Minnesotans. Asked Wednesday about the management changes, Dayton said he didn’t ask for them, but he approves.

“Well, I think they’re very necessary,” he said. “I think it shows we’re very serious about straightening out the remaining defects in MNLARS.”

  • Guest

    Administrative Overhead – hated by everyone, but very necessary and harder than it looks.

  • Fred

    Does every state have monumental IT failures like this or is it just Minnesota? What went wrong? We’ll be spending $225 million on IT programs in FY 2018.

  • Dave

    Let me guess. $90m later and you still can’t pay electronically via your bank.