So here we have a fellow, Ed Varno, by name, who lost his driver’s license about four years ago after a felony DWI conviction and also after being seriously in arrears on child support payments, which I actually didn’t know could cost you your license, but it can. He had to make good on the support payments, he had to pay some $2,000 in fines for the DWI, and he had to go through alcohol treatment and be certified clean for more than a year, all of which he did, according to him and according to his lawyer, Bruce Trachtenberg.
It was done through the Driver Improvement Bureau of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, to which he applied for reinstatement after fulfilling the requirements he was given. He was turned down.
A letter to Trachtenberg from a DMV lawyer, Ida L. Traschen, stated, “The Department expects relatively soon to finalize revised procedures and regulations regarding relicensure after revocation. At that time, we will review your client’s application in light of those revisions and contact him regarding his status.”
Which sounds like changing the rules in the middle of the game. Varno met the requirements he was supposed to meet, and now the DMV tells him it’s revising the requirements. They’ll let him know if he meets the new ones.
Thank you very much, says Trachtenberg, but not fair. “If additional or different requirements are later put in effect, delaying and then requiring additional hurdles after he has completed all that is presently required of him is, effectively, an unconstitutional ex post facto law.” The syntax misses a beat there, but we know what he means. You can’t write a law that takes effect retroactively, per the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 9: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” (Don’t ask me what a Bill of Attainder is.)
I was unable to get a response from the DMV to this interpretation of their rule-revision.
Trachtenberg also says someone at the Driver Improvement Bureau told him 5,000 New Yorkers are in the same position as Varno, that is, waiting for reinstatement of their licenses but at the mercy of requirements they don’t yet know about.
Varno, in case you’re wondering, is the son of retired Schenectady Fire Department Lt. Edward Varno and the nephew of former Schenectady Fire Chief Thomas Varno.
His family owns Clardon Swimming Pool Service on Central Avenue in Colonie, which is where he works. “I’m confined to the grounds,” he told me when I asked him how the lack of a driver’s license affects his job. “I could be on the road.”
Ladies and gentlemen, loyal readers: With this column I complete 24 1⁄2 years of writing three columns a week with just occasional breaks to visit out-of-the way places of the world. I am now going to reduce my workload, which many of you thought was ridiculously light to begin with, and will henceforth produce just one column per week, which will appear on Sundays.
Carl Strock is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper's. Reach him at email@example.com.