Protecting Social Security Numbers and other important identifying information is a big deal at the State and County level. There are laws, rules, policies in place to prevent their release. Or so I thought.
That there are either no such provisions to protect Social Security Numbers and other personal information on records at the License Collector’s Office or License Collector Mavis Thompson does not abide by them are equally alarming.
Actions have consequences. Or at least they should. But the Post-Dispatch Editorial Board failed to acknowledge the victim’s side of the Mavis Thompson Security Breach story. It failed to look into the ethic’s violation of Mavis Thompson using her office for personal gain. It failed to call for Mavis Thompson’s resignation. Instead, the Editorial Board chose to use the appalling action by Mavis Thompson as an opportunity to continue its generic and unproductive hating on county elected offices and Black women in particular.
In addition to streamlining the business license process and beginning the conversation (conversation, can we at least have the conversation) on consolidating License Collector functions with the Collector of Revenue, I trust Dana Kelly-Franks to follow the law on security of personal information while increasing transparency on public information.
If necessary, I know Dana Kelly-Franks will lobby the Missouri General Assembly and/or Board of Aldermen for any changes needed in laws affecting the License Collector. She is fierce and will not take no for an answer.
I know some things about public records v. closed records and redaction of sensitive information from public records because I work at the Recorder of Deeds Office. I do not represent the office or the elected Recorder here. I have not discussed writing this post with anyone at the office.
I was a whistle blower in the 2014 Recorder of Deeds saga, survived the return of the Recorder that I helped cause to resign and be audited, and I am here to say that I am very pleased with changes and progress made. It’s been a long, strange journey. If I honestly did not think Sharon Quigley Carpenter was the best candidate, I would say so, and loudly.
The challenger, Michael Butler, however, gives me great concern, particularly regarding sensitive personal information and changes he wants that will reduce revenue to St. Louis City.
Michael Butler’s website states, “Currently, citizens are unable to access their birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage licenses online through the Recorder’s office. Michael will allow citizens to apply, purchase and receive these vital records online within 12-24 months.”
St. Louis City-issued Marriage License Indexing is already searchable online and copies may be purchased online. Grass Is Always Greener St. Louis County does not provide online search of its marriage index but does use the same online purchase service as City Recorder.
Michael Butler’s claim that you have to go to the Recorder’s Offices for services is false. With the lone exception of applying for a Marriage License in person, which is a requirement of state law, every service is available by mail and many services are available online.
City-issued marriage records are not downloadable because they contain Social Security Numbers and, as of the end of August, will include copies of Driver’s Licenses.
Michael Butler would make that personal information public. Here’s how. Marriage Licenses, their Applications, and attachments such as Parental Consent forms and Affidavits, are public records. There is no Vital Records requirement for family relationship to purchase a copy. Since current Missouri law allows anyone to purchase a marriage record, allowing anyone to download marriage records means no redaction of Social Security Numbers or the attached scanned images of Driver’s Licenses.
If State Rep. Michael Butler had wanted to make public marriage records closed records, like Vital Records, he would need to convince the Missouri General Assembly to change current law.
In 2015, the Missouri State Archives released older Death Certificates online and free to the general public. It is of great service to genealogists but came at a price to counties, reduced copy fee revenue. Unfortunately, it was also done without redacting Social Security Numbers.
Before that, the Missouri General Assembly turned over every county’s cash cow- chattel mortgages, Uniform Commercial Code filings, to the Secretary of State. The SOS made a spectacular roll out of the online filing system and public database. And then it was abruptly shut down when someone bothered to ask if thousands of Social Security Numbers being made public was legal, let alone a good idea.
I remember when the Illinois State Archives gloriously went live with its online statewide marriage database and it imploded from the traffic within hours.
And the list of great publicity events regarding government records followed by an “oops” goes on and on.
Michael Butler would have a decent, though possibly overwhelming, grasp of what the City Recorder’s Office does and does not do and the how, why and why not of it all, the physical and environmental issues, the money, the staffing (the place is the most cross-trained office in City government), and more, if he had taken a day and spent it at the Recorder’s Office. The offer was made. He never showed up.
If he had taken the tour and picked brains, he would know that the State will only allow online access to Birth and Death Certificates via VitalChek. The City Recorder in her role as City Vital Records Register doesn’t use VitalChek because it costs customers more, takes much longer, and would mean a loss of $1 Million in revenue to the City. How is that possible? Because the default location for service is the State. A customer would have to click on St. Louis City from the menu, probably at the end of the list, in order for the service and money to stay in the City. The State would love to get that $1 Million and we cannot afford to lose it.
Recorder of Deeds Sharon Quigley Carpenter has decades of experience in preserving public records, providing public access, and protecting personal information- Social Security Numbers and Driver’s License copies relating to marriage records, Military Discharges recorded in the office, Birth and Death records, and more.
I want Sharon Quigley Carpenter to have one more term as Recorder. I believe she has provided residents, businesses, and taxpayers with excellent customer services and great progress is being made on records preservation and public access. I want her to have the opportunity to secure Passport Services at City Hall and expand the high school internship program.
Most importantly, I trust Sharon Quigley Carpenter to protect my Social Security Number on a record in her office.
I also want to give the Recorder’s Office under Sharon Quigley Carpenter and License Collector’s Office under Dana Kelly-Franks an opportunity to work together. The Recorder’s experience on records security might help Dana right the wrongs at License Collector. And I know Dana has an interest in some technology independence from the City via a technology fund similar to what all County Recorders have in Missouri. I realize the two are not on the same political team at the moment but I really do foresee a positive relationship.
For License Collector, Elect Dana Kelly-Franks
For Recorder of Deeds, Re-Elect Sharon Quigley Carpenter
— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman