Lawyers’ group demands investigation in potential bias at DMV hearings

DMV passwords

DENVER — A group of lawyers demanded the governor’s office order a wide-ranging ethics investigation into Drivers’ license suspension hearings.

That action is a direct result of a FOX31 Denver investigation into computer passwords being circulated among hearing officers working with DMV. The log-ins include codes like “Can’t Help” and “Get A Job.” There have been complaints the passwords show there is bias when it comes to suspension hearings.

Sources say there is some disciplinary action taking place for some employees. But the lawyers’ group says that’s not going to be enough.

Investigative reporter Chris Halsne first made the password jokes public Wednesday night in an exclusive FOX31 Denver News investigation.  And now the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar wants answers.

Tens of thousands of Colorado drivers get in trouble every year – losing road privileges for violations that range from repeatedly speeding to a lack of insurance to DUI.

The law, in most cases, allows those drivers to get their licenses back (at least conditionally) – but only after a closed door ‘hearing’ at the DMV.

Our investigation raised questions about whether that process can be fair if those judging think a list of computer passwords is funny.
Made-up log-ins that read “Ha Ha No Probationary License,” “Pedestrian,” and “RTD OK” – are no joke to defense attorney Heidi Anderson’s clients.

“They love to use the lingo that driving is a privilege, but when you don’t have a driver’s license you lose jobs, you lose family, people get divorced over this type of thing. I’ve had suicidal clients over this — when they’ve lost their license,” she says.

After seeing our investigation, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar is calling on Governor Hickenlooper to order an outside ethics probe which will “look into evidence suggesting systemic bias among the Department`s hearing officers.”

“They wield the same power, in some cases more power, than a judge,” says Sean McDermott, president of the 1,000-member bar.

The group is offended by computer passwords which attack specific attorneys who specialize in helping drivers — passwords that combine names of attorneys with “suck, blow, and butt.”

However, McDermott says it`s everyday Coloradans who should be angry with the apparent bias at DMV hearings. “The citizens should expect to be treated fairly and impartially and when you see that is not the case, that’s not just a concern for this organization, that’s a concern for everyone.”

There is an ongoing internal investigation into this at the Department of Revenue and Governor Hickenlooper’s office told FOX31 Denver News he supports that process. But we did not get an answer to our questions about whether the Governor supports the call for an outside, independent investigation.