Recorder seeks board’s guidance

LISBON – Columbiana County Recorder Theresa Bosel came to county commissioners on Wednesday to request guidance on several issues, including a possible lawsuit from a company wanting electronic copies of all property records.

Bosel presented them with a letter from Sage Information Services, a California business that obtains property records from state and local governments and sells the information to clients. She is balking at the company’s request for CD or DVD copies of all archived public records kept in an electronic format, agreeing instead to provide paper copies at the standard fee of 25 cents per page. Sage countered with a letter from its attorney.

Bosel is concerned about the potential drop in recording fees, a portion of which go to the county general fund, that would result if she was required to comply. She said it would also hurt local title search companies if out-of-state businesses could sell the same information.

Commissioner Chairman Mike Halleck told Bosel they are not attorneys and she should turn to the county prosecutor’s office for advice on how to proceed with Sage’s request. Bosel said she has done that.

Bosel then told commissioners she has come up with a better way to ensure title searchers for oil and gas companies are paying for copies but would want their permission before implementing the plan.

She wants to purchase a card-reader system for $1,888 in which users would buy pre-paid cards they would need to insert into the reader that would deduct the 25 cent-per-page payments when making copies.

“It was an honor system, and there aren’t a lot of honest people,” Bosel said of the current pay format.

To offset the cost of purchasing and operating the card-readers system, Bosel wants her office to keep the first $2,000 generated monthly from these fees instead of all of the proceeds going to the county general fund and the state. She said commissioners already allow the clerk of court’s office to do the same thing with the first $2,000 generated by its card-reader system.

Commissioners had no comment on this request, and Bosel moved on to the pending retirement of long-time recorder’s office employee Diana Reiter. County employees hired prior to the mid 1990s are entitled to be paid for up to 120 unused sick days and up to three years’ of vacation time upon retirement, and she said Reiter’s retirement could cost her office $45,000 if she decides not to collect on some of those days.

Bosel indicated Reiter is considering using some of her sick time between now and Aug. 31, when she retires, and taking the rest in a check. Reiter later told the Morning Journal she offered to take some of her vacation time between now, and Aug. 31 and it was Bosel who encouraged her to collect on her sick time instead. Reiter said she even submitted a request to use her vacation time but Bosel had yet to approve it.

Bosel confirmed she encouraged Reiter to use her sick days ahead of her vacation time. “I want her to get what she had coming to her. She has worked for the county for 21 years …. but I also want to do right by the taxpayers,” she said, adding that Reiter has told her the stress of the situation was having an impact on her health.

“She told me the stress is so great she cannot work (here) any longer,” Bosel said.

Her purpose of raising the issue with commissioners was to learn whether Reiter was allowed to collect on her sick days before her vacation time. “I’m not sure what the right thing is here,” Bosel said.

Again, commissioners told Bosel they are not the appropriate authority to be addressing such questions and advised her to ask the prosecutor’s office. Bosel said they are reluctant to provide legal advice on this particular issue and she intends to instead speak with her labor relations consultant since her office employees are part of a union.

Bosel said she also is concerned about $40,000 in unpaid bills she inherited from her predecessor, but Halleck disputed this, saying the auditor’s office did its own review and placed the figure at just under $13,000.

Aside from the request for additional funding, Halleck told Bosel the other issues are ones she must deal with the same as any other elected county officials, and the only say they have over her operations is in how much money they budget the recorder’s office.

“The board’s only responsibility is to give you money, and it’s up to you how to spend it,” he said, adding, “I don’t want you to feel you’re being treated any differently than any other officeholders.”

As for additional funding, Halleck said commissioners have historically considered those requests during the final quarter of the year, when they have a clearer picture of the county’s finances and officeholder spending.

Halleck said a review of the recorder spending appears Bosel is right in line with the budget they gave her, “and you don’t appear in as bad of shape as you think you are.”