Do offensive computer passwords prove bias at DMV hearings?
DENVER — URSkrood. CryMrRvr. 2Bad4Kdz.
Government employees in charge of driver’s license suspension hearings might think those are funny passwords.
Then again, now that the insiders’ joke is public, bosses at the Department of Revenue Division of Motor Vehicles aren’t laughing.
They have launched an internal investigation and are now fighting allegations the offensive computer log-ins show their hearing officers are not fair and impartial.
We first learned of a list entitled Empathy Passwords from a state whistle-blower. We then confirmed with on-record sources it has been circulating around the DMV division for several years.
The monthly password suggestions start in January 2011 with UWalkNow and continue forward in time through December 2014 with CuzUDrnk.
The list reportedly started as a joke, but DOR is now investigating whether state employees used them as actual computer log-ins.
We asked Assistant Chief Hearing Officer Mike Genoways about the passwords.
Genoways said he “probably have seen” the passwords list and admitted that “I can see where someone might interpret it that way.”
Defense attorney Gary Pirosko has spent twenty years representing clients who want their driver’s license suspensions lifted. He says the hearing officers have long had a reputation for bias against people trying to get their driving privileges restored.
“If you walk in there, the chances are probably in the high 90 percents, you`re going to lose,” Pirosko said.
When asked about April’s password suggestion: PrskoSux (Pirosko Sucks), Pirosko said “It’s actually disgusting.”
Pirosko ranted after seeing he’s being ridiculed by hearing officers.
“It’s gotten worse and worse and there seems like there is no accountability for this. It’s street justice. We don’t care what your defense is. We don’t care whether the person is innocent or not. We’re taking your license,” Pirosko said.
The man in charge of the division is Chief Hearing Officer Michael Williams. At first Williams declined to comment after we showed him the group of 48 computer log-ins, but he later agreed to “look into the matter.”
Williams told us, “I will tell you this emphatically: On my watch, we are absolutely fair and neutral. There is no tolerance for a lack of fairness or neutrality so we will need to talk about that.”
That promise was too late for a suspended driver who agreed to talk to us on the condition of anonymity. She is a mother of two and was arrested as a first-time DUI offender.
The woman and her attorney had prepared expert testimony which raised questions about the low level of intoxicants in her system, but say the hearing officer denied they even get to present a case.
“It was really disappointing not even being able to have that heard or proven,” she said. “It’s one sided. They’ve already made a decision before you even enter.”
We showed her this list of DOR hearing officer’s made-up monthly passwords — something she had never seen.
It included one-liners like: SqlLkAPg (Squeal Like a Pig), GtANuJob ( Get a New Job) and PDL?NOT! (Probationary Driver`s License? Not!).
“It`s unjustifiable. It`s a shame,” she said.
She hopes our investigation into the list of password jokes helps fix the perceived bias here before anyone else has to come back has to go beg for their driving privileges.
The Department of Revenue hearing officers involved in this joke also arbitrate liquor and marijuana licensing disputes. They are all sworn in under the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct — the same guidelines judges follow.
Since we last talked to Williams, DOR public relations staff released another statement saying:
“The Department of Revenue is committed to fair and impartial hearings and ensuring that appropriate due process is afforded to all parties. The Department of Revenue takes allegations of bias very seriously. We will investigate any allegation of bias thoroughly and where appropriate take action.”