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  The Loudoun Clerk has (as of last week) changed his plans thanks to the public outcry, a Board of Supervisors Resolution, and the newspaper coverage.  Instead of going "live" on July 16th as planned, he now will go "live" in September 2003 according to a posting on his webpage on the Loudoun County website.  He thinks ONLY professionals will access his site (meaning title searchers and real estate lawyers) but he CANNOT limit access to only "PROFESSIONALS."  Those records are available to "ANYONE" under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, common law, and Code of VA section 17.1-208.  which says "except as otherwise provided by law, the records and papers of every circuit court shall be open to inspection by any person." ANY PERSON….

 He says his site will be "secure"…Is there really any such thing as a secure website?  Ask University of Texas, Yale University, and/or Tricare West.  Websites can and will always be broken into since there are always people willing to commit criminal acts.  Jails are full of them.  Nowadays a website can be penetrated and you may never know it.  So much for his "secure" site.   

When "anyone" signs up for access, they will pay the money and get a password and, if denied access, sue the Clerk.  There will be people who will believe that he CAN deny them access but that is wrong, wrong, wrong!  He will be cruising for a lawsuit that all of Virginians will be paying for since he is a duly elected "constitutional officer."  He is paid by the state (our money!) and it is the state (our money!) that would defend him in court if he is sued over this access issue and it will be the people of Virginia who pay for that defense and any judgment should there be one.


 In 1997 the General Assembly unanimously passed House Bill 2762.   Every Senator and every Delegate voted AYE for the bill and so this internet/online records issue was born.  But who knew about it?   Not the "General Public" for sure or this would have been an issue back then…. But the law says "may" be put on the internet…it doesn't say "SHALL".  

 The Code of Virginia section 17.1-225  which resulted from that 1997 bill was amended later with the addition of this last line: "For purposes of this section, remote access users are those individuals who are not employees of the clerk's office."

  So John Q. Public searching the records in the Clerk's office would be a "remote user" and this would satisfy another very important COV section 17.1-279 which deals with the $3 fee we all pay in addition to other fees when we "record" something. That money over the years has piled up and the Clerks have used it to automate the records in their offices. It is not "grant money" - it is money the citizens of Loudoun county have paid which makes up that $700,000 that Clemens used to automate the records.

 In Loudoun County, the Board of Supervisors piled on another $410,000 (taxpayer dollars) because they probably didn't understand what the records were that he was going to put online or even thought about it and all the SS#s that would then be put on the internet in those records.  The records available via the internet will be everything in the Clerk's office…. and MANY of those records have SS#s, DOBs, minor children's names, signatures, mother's maiden names, and financial account #s ---- all too much to be seen from the privacy of one's home

 And, again,  why can "anyone "see them? Because they are "public" records and if "anyone" is willing to sign up and pay for them, they can get access.  I did.

 Yes, I agree the records are available between 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM in the Clerk's office and "ANYONE" can walk into a Clerk's office and see them/make a copy, but why should they be available over the internet to a certain few - like title searchers and real estate lawyers when the people have paid the bill for this venture: the $3 fees… and it's the citizens' tax dollars that the Board has kicked in, too, for this online records venture.  Or does your county get money from somewhere else other than tax dollars from the taxpayers?

 IF IF IF a person's Social Security number is in/on a record, then it WILL be online and available via the internet.  If the records have to be open to "ANYONE" by law, then "anyone" will be able to find those social security numbers.  The Social Security numbers are found on lots of 1.) Deeds of Trust mostly in the 90's, 2.) most judgments/liens (i.e. state and federal tax liens), 3) final divorce decrees, 4) Powers of Attorney, 5) financing statements (UCCs), 6) some notary commissions (depending on the county),  7) some oaths (depending on the county), 8) some "Homestead" Deeds.  Why am I telling this? Because if the Clerk's want the records to go online, I want YOU to know what he's putting online so you will know if your personal records are at risk

 So for the Clerk to say he is not putting Social Security numbers on the internet is WRONG and MISLEADING!!!!  If the SS# is on a document and he has an "online" system which the Loudoun Clerk will have with his NEW target date of  this coming September, then all those people who received a letter from me WILL HAVE their SS# ON THE INTERNET!  NO IFS ANDS OR BUTS!  Don't be fooled or misled….   

And why?  For the benefit of a "few", the Clerk risks everybody!  For the benefit of few title examiners and real estate attorneys???  Apparently, yes.

 He wrote in a letter to the Leesburg Today that his system has benefited the citizens - well, maybe the "few" who will pay $1200 a year or $200 a month to get access.  BUT when "anyone" realizes what's in these records they WILL sign up for access, too.  Maybe just to read divorce papers or see what's in a name change document or to steal SS#s….and from the privacy of their home 24/7!  Like I did…

 Once the interest rates go back up and the title examiners' work slacks off, then maybe his clerk's office won't be so crowded if that's Clemens' excuse. 

 When the committee hearings were going on during the last General Assembly session, it was the Clerk's Association who also came and lobbied against HB 2426 which would have stopped all this.  But once it was gutted by the Virginia Senate through the efforts of that group, plus some Clerks, AND the VA Press Association, the Virginia Coalition for Open Government , VA Association of Broadcasters, the VA Association of Realtors, and American Cadastre (AmCad who is just one of the webproviders for the clerks), House Bill 2426 became virtually worthless thanks to a motion by Sen Jay O'Brien of Fairfax adding Paragraph D 1. (I taped every committee meeting/hearing involving HB 2426 this past session.)

 On July 1, 1997, the Social security numbers were required on Virginia marriage licenses. Those numbers remained UNPROTECTED for four years - until July 1, 2001. It was in 2001 that our General Assembly passed a bill which resulted in COV Section 32.1-267(F) which limits who can see the marriage licenses with the Social Security numbers on it.  But for four years those records were unprotected and "out there" for anyone to see. 

 People in Loudoun now "get it" and that's because of the Leesburg Today (with which, by the way, I have no affiliation, connection, or interest) spilled the beans so to speak!.

 It's up to the people to stop this but many in the places where these records are online already, they don't even know it ....yet!.  

But county by county, I'll be there…I get nothing out of this and this little venture has cost me much, but sometimes you just have to do what you gotta  do!!!

 Here is the Clerk of Loudoun's application which is illegal because it cites a COV section that doesn't even exist yet and he asks for a purpose (that "purpose" clause was struck in late March by Gov. Mark Warner).

 Does it say how he will keep people from spreading their passwords around when they sign up?  NO! 

Does it say he will know everyone and what their motives are when they sign up?  NO! Because these records are open to everyone….

 Clemens says in a letter posted on his site "Online access to the Counties Land Records is designed for research by Land Records Professionals. With today’s heightened security concerns the Application for Consideration is not a simple signup form….."

 The only problem is that his system CAN and will be accessed by others not "professionals."  And his application is a SIMPLE SIGNUP FORM…  Just come up with the bucks, fill in the form, and you're in like Flint!   

Here is the Attorney General's opinion about access to the records….


History of HB 2426

Here's the original version which was "Co-Chief" Patroned by Del. Sam Nixon and Del. Bill Janis.  After the General Assembly session started, Del. Ryan McDougle signed on as a "Patron" :

Here's the House "version" which was voted on on 2/1/03:

Here's the House vote on 2/1/03:

Here's the senate version that came out of the sub/full Senate committee where it was GUTTED by the addition of Paragraph D1:

This is the bill passed and signed by the governor:

Here is the Senate vote on the bill amended by floor amendments from Senator Bill Bolling:


The game was over! Special interests (named above) won out!

But the citizens of Virginia will not stand for this!  They are the citizens' records and the citizens should decide whether or not they will go/be put on the internet!

Make sure all your friends know about this article because it is a start to finish explanation of the issue.


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