York County Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell makes no excuses.
Some of his employees were not notifying the state Department of Transportation about defendants who pleaded guilty or were convicted of certain drug offenses — crimes that carried automatic six-month license suspensions.
This went on for years before a similar issue in another county piqued O'Shell's interest.
"I decided to start running reports to see where we were," he said.
Sure enough, O'Shell found his clerks had not consistently notified PennDOT about drug cases. He's found 2,000 instances so far and expects the number to rise to 4,000 or 5,000 by the time his office finishes its review.
The clerk of courts has handled this about as well as possible.
Most of the mistakes were made by former employees who have moved on, but he's accepted blame.
"It wasn't picked up on by me and my management team," O'Shell said.
He has now revamped the process for notifying PennDOT and ordered monthly reports to ensure the new rules are being followed. From now on, clerks who fail to properly notify PennDOT will be disciplined
Lesson learned, time to move on?
Not quite – not for the 5,000 or so folks who have received, or soon will, license suspension notices for cases as old as 10 years.
O'Shell said he has no choice but to send the old cases on to PennDOT. Those whose licenses are suspended can appeal, but as long as the department can prove the delay wasn't its fault, courts typically deny such appeals, according to local defense attorney Jeff Marshall.
"Obviously I feel for these individuals, especially if they've gotten themselves together," O'Shell said. "I can see why it's unfair in their minds."
As can we.
But the bottom line is these folks have not completed their sentences.
Even if, as Marshall says, most have "completed their supervision, gained employment and moved on with their lives," they have not quite wiped the slate clean.
We have to wonder why these defendants didn't ask about their license suspensions, since they almost certainly were told to expect them.
Perhaps they figured they had slipped through the cracks, so why raise a hand and ask for a major life hassle.
Unfortunately for them, all that did was delay their responsibilities.