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REGISTER VIEWPOINT: At last, progress on court records

Commentary • Apr 21, 2010 at 12:32 AM


The county plans to move forward with an automated records keeping system with, or without, the assistance of Erie County clerk of courts Barbara Johnson. The system Johnson has maintained for the last two decades is woefully inadequate, effectively denying the public access to public records with the poor excuse that it's difficult to maintain the records.

We're grateful this seems to be a step forward. The county's information technology director Bob Lange will head up a four-person committee tasked with placing Erie County court records online.

It's difficult to get too excited, however, given the county's track record on this, and a host of other pressing issues. Those include, but are not limited to the unresolved jail overcrowding problem that has gone un-addressed for more than 12 years, the cellular 911 problem that county officials seem to pretend is being addressed, and regional dispatch, which we have little faith the county will ever be equipped to address.

County commissioners Bill Monaghan and Pat Shenigo have steered the county toward fiscal responsibility and made hard choices. Cutting costs across the board spreads the pain, and commissioners face a backlash, of sorts, from the unions representing county employees.

But reducing payroll and investing money to make government more efficient go hand-in-hand. Making government more productive in how it delivers services is the only real choice taxpayers have at this point to fix the enormous debt burden left by the irresponsible spending and pricing practices of the past.

The intention shown here to define and create an adequate records system is a good start, and county leaders have spelled out that intention to seek modernization across the board when it comes to keeping viable, adequate and accessible records. They're way behind the curve on this, with 58 of Ohio's counties already utilizing upgraded services. But that can also be an advantage if the committee looks carefully at the successes that other counties have already gained. There might not be a need to re-invent the wheel here if the committee does it's homework and seeks out the best practices already being used in other parts of the state.

We hope there will finally be some resolve on this issue, just as we hope county leaders eventually take up the other tasks. Stay tuned. We'll keep you posted.

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