BOSTON (SHNS) – The Merit Rating Board, a part of state government that generally only gets attention when something goes wrong, is poised next month to select a new director for the little-known office within the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The unit’s primary purpose is to maintain and update driving records and report driving record information to auto insurers and public safety agencies, and it has cycled through a series of interim leaders since a 2019 scandal led to the firing of its director. The Merit Rating Board — the three-member panel that bears the same name as the RMV unit that it manages — interviewed two finalists for the director job Wednesday, including the woman who has been interim director for more than a year.

The next director will oversee a new project that the board plans to roll out in the new year, Registrar Colleen Ogilvie said. The project includes the buildout and implementation of a citation portal, the interim director said Wednesday. And the next director will also be taking over an office that is best known by the public for its failures.

The MRB board was dormant from 2015 until 2019, when it became clear that the RMV department had failed to process tens of thousands of paper out-of-state driver violation notices and therefore allowed thousands of drivers to avoid license suspensions they should have been issued. One of those notices should have automatically triggered a commercial license suspension for a West Springfield man who was involved in a New Hampshire crash that killed seven motorcyclists.

In its first meeting in four years, board members voted unanimously to fire then-Director Thomas Bowes. Division of Insurance employee Paolo Franzese served as interim director (he is also listed simply as director on some MRB board meeting materials) until November 2021, when RMV official Sonja Singleton stepped into the interim position.

The board — Ogilvie, Commissioner of Insurance Gary Anderson and Glenn Kaplan from the attorney general’s office — on Wednesday interviewed the two candidates recommended by a screening committee: Jessica Perez-Rossello, who currently works at MassHealth, and Interim Director Singleton.

Ogilvie said Wednesday that the board plans to make a hiring decision at a meeting that will be scheduled for January.

Jessica Perez-Rossello

Since May 2016, Perez-Rossello has overseen MassHealth eligibility operations as deputy chief operations officer. She has state government experience outside the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, too. From 2009 until October 2012, Perez-Rossello was chief information officer for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, according to her LinkedIn profile.

A biography hosted on the website of the Milbank Memorial Fund said that Perez-Rossello “has been working with MassHealth on the implementation of the Health Insurance Exchange system to meet Medicaid/Chip eligibility. She has overseen the MassHealth Enrollment Centers, staffed by over 500 employees who interface with program participants and process their information pursuant to regulatory requirements.”

During her interview with the Merit Rating Board members Wednesday, Perez-Rossello acknowledged that she would have a “learning curve” when it came to the fine details of licensing and insurance regulations, but said her experience as an administrator would transfer to the job seamlessly.

“My background has been in education and in health care. You know, operations is operations still,” Perez-Rossello said. She added, “So I will have a learning curve on the insurance claiming and the rules, but I always love the challenge of learning something new and then using my experience that I’ve gained through the years to make a difference in the organization.”

She briefly worked as a vice president at State Street, then as director of quality assurance for Public Consulting Group from 2006 to 2009, and was president of Passio Consulting from late 2012 until joining MassHealth in mid-2016.

Perez-Rossello describes herself on her LinkedIn page as a “[t]echnology management executive specializing in healthcare, education, and government projects under tight budgets and time lines while building trusting relationships with staff, colleagues and vendors.” She holds two degrees from Bentley University and lives in Canton.

Sonja Singleton

For the last 13 months, Singleton has been working as interim director of the Merit Rating Board. She took the role on an interim basis after more than a year-and-a-half as director of policy and risk for the RMV.

Prior to joining state government, Singleton was compliance manager at the Dimock Center, where she prepared and managed regulatory applications to federal, state and local agencies, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Singleton worked for 24 years in the finance sector at what was then known as Boston Financial Data Services and she told the MRB board members Wednesday that her various roles there taught her how to design, implement and communicate a strategic plan across a large organization. She said that she has put some of that strategic planning experience to use in her time as interim director of the Merit Rating Board.

“I do have a plan,” Singleton said. “The whole goal for myself when I joined and then going forward was to work on the people, the process and the technology. And then in each one of those areas there’s a 30-, a 60- and a 90-day plan going forward on how you move the needle in each one of those areas.”

On her LinkedIn page, Singleton describes herself as a “[r]esults-oriented professional with extensive years of experience working in a fast paced challenging environment in a company with rapid growth. Proactive and resourceful team player capable of managing multiple projects. … Highly organized with unique combination of experience in risk management, project management, office management, and financial systems.”

Singleton holds a degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston and lists her residence as Quincy.