Update: A number of voters are having buyer’s remorse after signing the petition. I am presently looking into how voters may remove their names from the petition.
Many of you are being asked today at the polls to sign a petition to fund police body cams. It’s actually a petition to transfer the Recorder of Deeds Office, an elected position, to Assessor Office, a mayoral appointee.
The cost savings from transferring Recorder to Assessor is imaginary, made up, the bright shiny object to lure you to sign the petition. $1 Million cost savings by cutting staff from a Personnel Budget of $2.5 Million? Give me a break.
Does firing the front office and all supervisors, which is what it would take to hit that $1 Million cost savings, everyone who keeps the office in compliance with state law/policy on recording deeds, issuing marriage licenses, issuing birth and death certificate copies, preserving historic records, recording military discharges, does that sound like a good idea to you?
I can tell you what happens when managers of a Recorder’s Office leave en masse. It happened in Jackson County in the 1990’s. Everyone walked out when someone totally unqualified for the job was appointed and had ideas on how to do things differently. The result was a nuclear meltdown with no deeds recorded, no marriage licences issued, no copies made, mail was not processed, no checks deposited. It went on for weeks until the title companies went to the media, a new qualified Recorder was appointed, and staff returned. It was the St. Louis City Recorder’s office and other elected Recorder offices that went to Jackson County to help clean up their mess.
The Assessor and Recorder have two very different jobs. The Assessor and Recorder have one thing in common, only one- transfer of title on real estate. That’s it. The Assessor’s office has zero experience in 75% of what the Recorder’s office does.
Missouri has 115 Counties counting the City of St. Louis. All 115 Counties have a Recorder of Deeds. None have an Assessor who performs Recorder duties. The only place I know of with Recorder-Assessor offices is the State of California.
113 Missouri Counties have elected Recorders of Deeds. Most Recorders/Registers of Deeds in the United States are elected. It is seen as an office that needs to be independent of the county’s executive office/commission.
Only two counties in Missouri have appointed Assessors- St. Louis City and Jackson County. St. Louis County had an appointed Assessor and voted to change its charter and elect the Assessor.
Making the Recorder a mayoral appointee is a discussion that has previously taken place at the Board of Aldermen and can take place again, a thorough vetting of the idea and, if it makes sense to our elected representative, sending that charter change to the voters. But that’s not what is going on here. A billionaire is buying a ballot issue for the Assessor to absorb the functions of another office that it has little in common.
There are other places to find money for body cams if the Board of Aldermen is in agreement that it should be a funding priority. As example, if city elections for Mayor/Comptroller/aldermen were moved from March and April elections to August and November state elections, the City Budget would be saved $500,000. We can do that by charter amendment. The Board of Aldermen can put that on the ballot. Not only would it reduce election costs but it would also increase turnout for municipal races.
Disclosure: I am a city employee who works at the Recorder of Deeds Office. I am an archivist who perform records conservation and preservation services, not a manager. I speak only for myself here as the 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman and do not represent the Recorder or City of St. Louis. I have not discussed this matter with the Recorder or any Recorder employee. I had my job for nearly 20 years before I was elected a committeewoman, did not become committeewoman because of my job, did not get my job because I am a committeewoman. I have scheduled vacations days for all election days. I do not write this on taxpayer time. I have an ongoing beef with Rex Sinquefield’s attempts to legally buy elections. His main goal for St. Louis is to force it to re-enter St. Louis County as a means to eliminate the city’s earnings tax.- Marie Ceselski