More mediation ordered in DMV IT lawsuit

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A judge wants the state and the company building the R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles’ long-delayed new computer system to continue trying to settle their differences out of court.

R.I. Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein has ordered DMV and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise officials to hold a mediation session this week. The state sued HPE last fall after the company demanded more money to continue working on the computer project, and Silverstein ordered its employees to stay on the job during the litigation.

Silverstein previously appointed former R.I. Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Williams as mediator in the suit.

The technology project, the Rhode Island Motor Vehicle System (RIMS), is an effort to replace the DMV’s Reagan-era computer system and dates back to Don Carcieri’s term as governor. Gov. Gina Raimondo recently requested $11 million more from drivers to defray the cost.

R.I. Department of Revenue Director Rob Hull gave an upbeat update on the project Tuesday, telling lawmakers he sees “no reason” why the DMV shouldn’t be able to launch the system this summer. He said the agency may have the system go live over the 4th of July weekend.

“It’s actually working at great pace,” Hull said at a hearing. “The system is now frozen and working for the first time in our history. Every goal we’ve set over the last year, we’ve achieved.”

The state has shelled out roughly $13 million for the DMV system so far, but HPE puts its own spending on the project at more than $46 million. Hull argued the system remains a bargain, saying similar projects in other states – such as Nevada – have carried price tags of $40 million to more than $100 million.

Silverstein has set May 15 as the first day of a trial in the suit over the project if mediation doesn’t succeed. The two sides are currently waiting for the judge to rule on whether to grant a preliminary injunction, a decision that is expected Monday.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram