(Updated 3:33 p.m.) After offering an apology earlier this month for the computer problems that led to the erroneous suspension of vehicle registrations, Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Andres Ayala Jr. submitted his resignation Tuesday evening.
Ayala, a former Bridgeport school teacher who served three terms in the state House of Representatives and one in the state Senate before being named DMV commissioner, helped usher in a new controversial law that allowed undocumented workers to obtain driver’s’ licenses. But he ran into problems in July when one of his divisions told driving schools that the new program wasn’t causing longer wait times for driver exams. He eventually had to reverse himself and admit that the new program was contributing to the delays.
Then came the eight-day closure of DMV offices and branches for a $25-million computer upgrade in August, followed by long lines and headaches for drivers.
The wait times began to diminish by September, but by January the department was forced to admit that the delays had caused a backlog of insurance-related suspension notices. The computer upgrade had prevented the DMV from processing suspension notices.
But when the upgrade was complete, the coding for when those notices were to be sent was more “sensitive” than it was before the upgrade, and thus more notices were generated than before.
On Jan. 7, Ayala apologized to drivers who may have been ticketed or towed because their registrations were erroneously suspended as a result of the delays in processing the paperwork. The legislature’s Transportation Committee is planning to hold hearings about the DMV problems when the General Assembly reconvenes Feb. 3.
In his resignation letter, which he sent to Chief of Staff Brian Durand Tuesday, Ayala said the past year was challenging but he feels he “worked diligently to bring about the necessary changes.”
The computer upgrade was the first the department had undergone in 40 years.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who nominated Ayala as his first latino commissioner, said Wednesday afternoon at an unrelated press conference that Ayala volunteered his resignation. He said Ayala’s performance in the job was not the “main driver” for his resignation.
“It’s been a tough year for him,” Malloy said. “I think he’s done a good job, as good as he could do and I think it was an opportune time for him to leave.”
Malloy said Ayala made a “personal decision to move on,” but Ayala doesn’t say why he decided to leave in his resignation letter.
“It has not been an easy job for the commissioner and I appreciate the fact that he decided to move on,” Malloy said.
Ayala’s resignation will be effective Jan. 22.
“Change can be difficult but I was persistent and handled the complexities of rolling out such an important system,” Ayala wrote in his resignation letter. “As a result of this effort customers are now able to take care of their transactions online. I am sure the Department will continue to work to enhance customer service and the needs of the residents of the State of Connecticut will be met.”
Malloy said he plans to name an acting commissioner within the next few days.