WARREN County recorders worry about plan
The president of the Ohio Recorders' Association has objections to the bill.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Some county recorders worry a bill allowing customers to use their own machines to make copies could cause problems.
"It is just going to be a mess," said Trumbull County Recorder Diana Marchese, who has expressed her misgivings about the bill to Trumbull County's three state representatives.
The bill was crafted by State Rep. Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool, R-3rd, after he heard on the radio about problems between Mahoning County Recorder Ron Gerberry and title companies who do business in his office.
Controversy erupted a few weeks ago when Gerberry asked the companies to remove a privately owned copy machine they used to sidestep the $1 per page fee the Ohio Revised Code mandates county recorders to charge. Gerberry did so on the basis of a legal opinion from the county prosecutor's office that the law requires recorder's employees to make all copies and levy the fee.
"Basically, the intent of the [new] legislation is to say that if the recorder makes the copy, he has to charge $1, but if customers make their own copy, the recorder doesn't have to charge $1," Blasdel said. "It would be up to the decision of the recorder."
Sees problems: The Ohio Recorders' Association has not adopted a formal position on the bill, but the association's president, Cochranton County Recorder Sandra Corder, said she saw "several problems" with it.
"The general public will not benefit from this amendment," she said.
Although Blasdel's bill would save money for title companies that have their own copy machines, members of the general public would still be paying $1 per page, she said.
"We are here to serve the public. We are not here to serve vendors who then sell the public documents for a profit," she said.
The logistics of allowing private companies to set up copy machines in county offices also troubled recorders. Costs for electricity and supplies would have to be worked out, and Marchese speculated that number or people wishing to rent space for a copier could get out of hand with all the genealogists, surveyors, engineers and title companies that use her office.
"If I were to do it for one, I'd be obligated to do it for everyone," she said.
The Trumbull County recorder also worried that it could cause confusion for the public if different county recorders followed different practices.
Variation: There is already some variation. As had recently been the case in Mahoning County, the Columbiana County Recorder's office makes some accommodation for the title companies that are its heaviest users.
Employees of those companies look up the titles, then make their own copies on a county-owned machine, said Recorder Gary Williams. The companies get monthly bills for the copies at 50 cents a page.
"Since they are doing all the work themselves, we are not charging $1 a page," he said. The office would have to hire additional employees to provide the same level of service to the title companies as it does for the general public, who are charged $1 per page, he said.
Williams supports Blasdel's bill.
"I feel there is a gray area in the law and we need to get on the same page," he said.
Gerberry said he will implement a plan similar to what's done in Columbiana County. The title companies will have to remove their machine from the courthouse, and the county will buy or lease two machines to put in the basement.
One will be solely for use by the title companies, who will be able to make copies for 25 cents each by using a debit card. The other will be a coin-operated machine where the public will also be able to make 25-cent copies of noncertified documents, Gerberry said.
"I feel comfortable in doing that," Gerberry said. "I think it's fair to the general public and to the title companies."