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Do you want your personal information put at risk for the benefit of 35 people???
Title examiners want back in Loudoun's records!
Here's a story (below) printed today in the Leesburg Today about title examiners who want Loudoun's Clerk of Circuit Court, Gary Clemens, to turn the site back on and let them back into the records. Approx. 35 people up there want to put all the people's records at risk by wanting the records online to make their life easier. Loudoun has a pop. of over 175,000... But to risk the whole county's records for 35 people???
Things to pay attention to:
#1) While I was in those records I noticed HUGE gaps in the info and MANY record's "images" were not available...Enough records were not online for any title examiner to do a "complete" title examine as I saw it. I pointed this out to the Clerk's assistant who takes care of it and he said he knew the huge gaps were there and they were trying to fix it. The record's "images" were only available back to about 1989-90 so how can title examiner do a "complete" search if he can't view the "images" of the documents prior to that? That site is one of the poorest/worst I have been into but just good enough to clean out the SS#s and other personal info….
#2) Notice how much the clerk will be losing in copying fees a month...One man is quoted below as saying he and 3 employees spend about $1000/month for copies.... If they are spending that kind of money for copying and they usually do, according to title examiners in the Richmond area, then why would Clemens - or any clerk - want to lose that kind of money on a monthly basis versus the $100 they will pay per month if they sign up for a year at $1200/yr?
#3) Tom Digge's comments in the article: he says he doesn't see why it is necessary to put a SS# on a Deed of Trust. It WAS a very common practice in the 90's and into 2001and most of the documents I sent out last week with my letter were the signature page of a Deed of Trust where I found the SS#s.
That leads to a greater question though: Why would any attorney allow their SS# and their wife's to be put on a Deed of Trust anywhere in this state??? Like Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and Del. Terry Kilgore, and lots of others including former State Senators, Judges, substitute Judges, the Commonwealth's Attorney in Loudoun, and even Clerks of Circuit Court? WHY did they all allow their SS#s to be put on a Deed of Trust or Credit Line Deed of Trust that they knew would get recorded in a public place - the records room? Because they never thought those records would see the light of day on the internet, that's why!!! But our legislature in all its wisdom allowed it and now are wrestling with it, but they are taking too much time "studying it." The Devolites committee is only going to meet twice this year (in Nov. and Dec.) Is that because she's put her campaign ahead of this committee she was chosen to head up????
(Note: that title examiner didn't even mention the divorce papers, tax liens, marriage licenses, name change documents, or the Powers of Attorney that are on Clemens' site complete with SS#s, DOBs, minor children's names, financial account #s….)
#4) One person in this article is quoted as saying, "I think it would be a good idea if laws were passed so that you could redact documents and remove Social Security numbers." Yes, it would be a good idea to remove the SS#s plus the minor children's names, DOBs, etc., but it is obvious he wasn't down at the General Assembly this past session. Why? Because the Clerks who were there and the Clerk's Association all complained they didn't have the staff nor the money to redact the personal identifying info out of every record. One delegate during the House Floor debate stated the clerks wouldn't know how and that their job was an administrative one - he said some only had high school degrees.
AND FINALLY # 5) Just like I have said...how can the Clerk "control" who is getting access to the records when people let other people use their "password"? Look at what Digge's says below----"a friend who had access to Clemen's site let him borrow the password." This proves my point! What if "everybody" let all their "good friends" borrow their passwords???? How secure is that? It not! And IT WILL HAPPEN again and again but here is someone admitting it. The Clerk can't stop someone from sharing their password. There is no law against it! AND remember also "anyone" can sign up for access....Just pay the $$$ and you're in like Flint! When this issue first started a couple of weeks ago, your Clerk told everyone tht he could deny access if he had suspicions someone would be up to no good! He now has changed his tune and learned that he CANNOT DENY ANYONE ACCESS!
Okay Loudoun folks!!! It's up to you! They're your records... Do you want them put at risk/online for 35 title searchers and a few real estate attorneys? People are generally lazy and will not take off from work to go snooping at the courthouse between 8:30 and 4:30 and then pay 50 cents a page copying stuff.
You have to spread the word and write letters, tell your neighbors, call your Senator and Delegates, call the clerk and tell him his goose is cooked next election if he does go ahead with his plans.... Also remind your Clerk that 35 votes from title examiners won't win him an election when the whole county is against this. And tell your friends about The Virginia Watchdog website and make sure they read the Leesburg Today newspaper.
Here is the Leesburg Today Article....Link is at the bottom.
Plug Us Back
In, Records Users Say
Jul 31, 2003 -- Title examiners who frequent the Loudoun County Courthouse are unhappy and perplexed that the clerk of the court turned off his remote access subscription system for land records and other court documents.
“I think we’re universally disappointed,” said Jeffrey G. Ball, Leesburg production manager for LandAmerica. “A lot of people reconfigured their business plans saying ‘this [remote access] is great.’”
Like other veteran title examiners, Ball found Clerk of the Court Gary M. Clemens’ remote access system—that allowed researchers to do their work from their offices or homes using the Internet at any time of the day or night—very useful.
The controversy with the Internet-based subscription access lies with what information is embedded in many of these public records, like deeds and tax liens: Personal information about Loudoun residents, from Social Security numbers to birth dates and mothers’ maiden names. The availability of this data through the Internet has alarmed many people. Now politicians are wrestling with the issues at the local and state levels. The records in the remote access are public and are the same exact ones that have been stored in the courthouse for public view for decades. But because of the mounting privacy concerns from constituents after Leesburg Today published an article about the online access plans, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last week asking that Clemens delay his remote access system until he could better explain to those concerned how it would operate. People also were concerned because the clerk may not ask users why they want access, according to Gov. Mark Warner’s Office, who stated that Clemens’ application was illegal because it asked that question. Anyone who fills out an application and pays the fee is qualified to access the data. Clemens agreed to shut down his remote access system until he and others could calm the fears.
“I don’t understand the necessity of putting a Social Security number on a deed of trust,” said Tom Digges, vice president and general counsel of Walker Title and Escrow Co. in Fairfax. “I don’t have the foggiest idea and I think it’s wrong.”
With interest rates dropping, title examiners—who review public records to verify the legal status of land—have seen a drastic jump in their workloads. The remote access allowed them to work virtually around the clock from home or office. Title examiners usually work for title insurance or real estate companies and their job is to search records and examine documents to determine if there are problems with the title. Once completed with their research, they arrange insurance policies that guarantee a clear title, therefore protecting purchasers. To research one title takes hours of work, Ball said, and dozens of documents have to be reviewed. His office handles about 15 to 20 titles a day.
Digges said a friend of his who had access to Clemens’ remote access let him borrow his password. “It was someone that Gary [Clemens] had authorized to use it,” Digges said. “The agreement was only I in my organization would use it and the moment I was asked to terminate use I would terminate use. I was able to get more title work done because I worked Saturdays and Sundays. It was very helpful to me in terms of making me more efficient.”
Ball said he never intended to use the remote access in place of walking to the courthouse Monday through Friday, but merely to use the access as a tool for speeding up his work.
“I want to keep coming to the land records with my legal pad and ink pen,” Ball said. “To me, I really haven’t quite grasped the whole [remote access] thing.”
The remote access subscription, at $1,200 a year, was a bargain, according to Ball and Digges.
“There’s no question in my mind that we would very easily save money doing it,” Digges said. Ball and his three title searches spend about $1,000 a month on copies from the courthouse and other public entities, without the remote access.
“All the [remote access] was costing me was the toner and paper in my office,” he said. “It works like a copy center. It also enables you to provide better, faster service to your customers and that’s what it’s all about. People are getting nervous about a different form of what they’ve always been able to look at [in the courthouse].”
Ball and Digges said when they and other title examiners check the records, they rarely have to pay attention to the Social Security numbers, the birth dates and the other personal information contained on these public records.
“It doesn’t play [a role] in any of the ordinary research we do,” he said. Digges said he never even realized that Social Security numbers were on deeds of trust.
“I am not totally ignorant of the privacy concerns but I think the information that is generally available is available anyway in the courthouse if I want it,” Digges said.
Ball believes the state should be controlling the issue and less attention should be paid to Clemens and other court clerks who want to legally implement remote access systems.
“I don’t think clerks should be attacked,” he said. “The people that are worried about it are more vocal than those who don’t see it as a threat. It puts Gary in a real tough spot. I am not threatened by land records. I think it would be a good idea if laws were passed so that you could redact documents and remove Social Security numbers. The fundamental issue doesn’t seem to be the Internet; it’s the structure of public land records.”
(c) 2003 Ostergren, P.C. (Page Format Only)