Prop A Fail: Recorder’s Records Preservation Fund Cannot Pay For Police Body Cameras

Proponents of Rex Sinquefield’s Proposition A cannot seem to settle on where is it that they are getting $1 Million from the Recorder of Deed’s Office for the imaginary $1 Million Police Body Cam program.

Earlier this week, Senator Jamilah Nasheed said the money would come from modernizing computers, apparently not understanding that the technology at the Recorder’s is not paid for by General Revenue.

Today on St. Louis On The Air, Senator Nasheed claimed body cameras could be funded with the Recorder of Deeds’s Preservation Fund. The account is separate from General Revenue and funded by a special fee dedicated under Section 59.319.1 RSMo to preservation-related activities of the Recorder’s Office.

While the City Recorder is best known for recording deeds, issuing marriage licenses, and providing Birth and Death Certificate copies, the Office is charged with conservation, preservation, and access for many more records, an extensive public records collection.

It appears that the Senator takes the constitutional provision giving City voters the right to “amend or revise its present charter to provide for the number, kinds, manner of selection, terms of office and salaries of its county officers” to mean that the City has a right to ignore all other constitutional provisions and statutes, which is does not.

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Prop A Fail: General Revenue Does Not Pay For Technology At Recorder’s Office

In this Fox2 You Paid for It interview, State Senator Jamilah Nasheed says that there is $1 Million in cost savings to be had by modernizing the computers at the Recorder of Deeds Office, or combining computers with another office, or something like that. The plan is not specific. It just has something to do with computers equaling a million dollars for police body cameras.

The problem with Nasheed’s argument is that the computer-related technology used in the Recorder of Deed’s Office is not paid for by City General Revenue. The Recorder’s database is paid for by a special fee on document recording and fund created by Section 59.800 RSMo. The fund must be spent on technology for the Recorder’s office. The funds cannot be diverted for other purposes. The funds cannot be moved to General Revenue.

The Recorder’s Technology Fund is why every Missouri Recorder has its own database separate from County Collector, Assessor, etc. Data may be shared with other agencies and systems, but there remains a database specific to recording of deeds and issuance of marriage licenses.

Consolidating databases would actually cost the City’s General Revenue Fund millions of dollars to convert data and adapt the City’s system to accommodate all the Recorder’s functions and services.

The Recorder provides secure electronic deed recording. It’ll cost a bundle for the City to reinvent that wheel.

The Recorder’s database currently has 13.6 Million scanned images ranging from 19th Century for profit and nonprofit incorporations and marriage licenses to tax liens and mortgages recorded yesterday. There are millions more records waiting to be scanned and indexed. $2.5 Million was the last bid estimate for an outside contractor to aide in scanning land record books in the basement. 

When the City’s website/network goes down, the public can still research deeds at St. Louis City Recorder. Sometimes bigger is not better.

Rex Drops $50,000 Each On Prop A Body Cam Scam and Prop B Election Date Scam

Tuesday, March 21st, Great St. Louis dumped $50,000 into Make Saint Louis Safe, Rex Sinquefield’s PAC to fund his Proposition A Police Body Camera Scam.

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Great St. Louis is entirely funded by Rex Sinquefield, by personal check and closing out the account of his Vote No on the E-Tax  PAC.

Most of the Great St. Louis money in 2016 went to the losing 2016 Primary campaigns of Republican candidates– Catherine Hanaway’s campaign for Governor and Kurt Schaefer’s bid for Missouri Attorney General.

Larry Stendebach, the Deputy Treasurer of Great St. Louis,  is also Treasurer for Make Saint Louis Safe, and the tech guru for Pelopidas, the PR/lobbying firm making a mint off of Sinquefield.

Stendebach is also Deputy Treasurer for STL Votes!, the PAC to fund Rex Sinquefield’s Prop B Election Date Scam. The proposal would move some but not all local Spring elections to Fall State elections, reducing turnout for school board elections and local ballot issues and with no cost savings.

Treasurer for STL Votes! is Martin Casas, who has run social media for Rex Sinquefield’s Better Together and most recently was employed by the Lyda Krewson for Mayor campaign.

Monday, Great St. Louis also dropped $50,000 on the STL Votes! campaign.

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Stendebach was also a petitioner on the Bankrupt Saint Louis 2016 initiative petition to force yet another vote on the City’s earnings tax. The tax was reauthorized in Spring 2016 with 72% of the vote. Outrage over the Bankrupt St. Louis petition was swift and loud. The proposal was put aside.

Great St. Louis has a website in the making. If you see one for Make Saint Louis Safe or STL Votes! email ward7stl@aol.com with a link.

League of Women Voters Voter Guide Gets Prop A Wrong

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Proposition A does not seek to “eliminate the elected position of recorder of deeds.” It seeks to eliminate the position of Recorder entirely. Without someone with the title “Recorder of Deeds” there can be no recorder services such as deed recording and marriage license issuance. Missouri law requires every county to have a Recorder.

The summary also states the ballot measure would move “some employees to the office of assessor” without saying that all employees would be retained as City employees. It implies that some Recorder employees would be laid off, a cost savings, which is not true. The Missouri Constitution specifically protects the City’s county employees during any consolidation of services.

And, again, there is neither a $1 Million cost savings from consolidating Assessor and Recorder offices, nor is there a Police Body Cam program that could operate on $1 Million alone.

There Is No $1 Million Dollar Police Body Camera Program

There is a $2.2-$1.4 Million per year Body Cam Plan.  There is no $1 Million Police Body Cam program on the table. Budget2

So, for starters, proponents are not even suggesting that this ballot issue will fully fund or even fund half of a Body Cam Program.

As for the alleged $1 Million cost savings from eliminating the Recorder of Deeds Office (which cannot be done under Missouri law) and moving Recorder services to Assessor without giving Assessor the title of Recorder (which cannot be done under Missouri law), even if this petition had been written correctly, there is no $1 Million cost savings.

The Recorder’s Budget is $2.8 Million. $2.5 Million of the budget is personnel. All staff of the Recorder would be retained as City employees under any consolidation of services affecting the office. It’s a constitutional protection.

The remaining $300,000 of the Recorder’s budget is copiers, paper goods (a primary function of Recorder is producing certified copies of deeds, marriage licenses, and other records in its care, which requires copiers and paper), and the $70,000 a year contract with State of Missouri to provide Birth and Death Certificate copies (which brings in $900,000 annual to City General Revenue).

Even in the imaginary world of Proposition A, there is only an imaginary $300,000 a year cost savings from eliminating an office you cannot eliminate and failing to to carry out statutory duties of recording deeds and issuing marriage licenses.

Waiting for the Rex Money

Still no big deposits to Make St. Louis Safe, Rex Sinquefield’s ballot issue committee for Proposition A. Of course, he has a dizzying array of other political action committees, so maybe we’re tracking the wrong one even though Make St. Louis Safe says it is for 4/4/2017 St. Louis City ballot measure.

And that name- Make St. Louis Safe- is such a joke. Proposition A has nothing to do with safety. It’s just a poorly written ballot issue to keep checks coming to consultants.

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Fact Checking a Prop A Supporter

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Question: Does State Health Department, or local Health Departments, in Missouri have any statutory jurisdiction to accept Applications for Marriage Licenses, issue Marriage Licenses, or issue certified copies of Marriage Licenses?

Answer: No. The State Health Department may verify that a marriage ceremony was recorded in a county. That’s it. If you want to apply for a Marriage License or get a certified copy  of your Marriage License- the legal document, you go to the Recorder of Deeds.

Question: Does Missouri Revised Statutes give County Collectors of Revenue the authority to engage in recording of land deeds and issuance of certified copies of land deeds?

Answer: No. Every Missouri County must have a Recorder of Deeds to perform Recorder services. Very small counties, however, are authorized to have a Circuit Clerk-Recorder office. But, having a separate, independent Recorder of Deeds is deemed so important in Missouri that, some years back, a special Statutory County Recorder’s Fund was created, a fee on recording transactions across Missouri, to assist small counties in separation of their Recorder and County Clerk functions. 

Question: Would combining the St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds Office/duties with another office result in cost savings adequate to fund even a 10th of a police body camera program?

Answer: No. The only cost savings would be the Recorder’s salary. It’s just a Body Cam Scam funded by Billionaire Rex Sinquefield.

Prop A Body Cam Scam’s Fuzzy Math

$2.2-$1.4 Million: Estimated Annual Cost of a Police Body Camera Pilot Program for SLMPD

$2.8 Million: FY17 Budget of Recorder of Deeds
88% of the Recorder’s Budget is Staff, employees protected by the Missouri Constitution from lay offs in a consolidation of services.

How does Prop A fund police body cameras?

It doesn’t.

Who Is Responsible For This Prop A Body Cam Scam Mess?

Easy enough to blame the money. Without Rex Sinquefield’s money, there would be no ballot issue. But the people who lent their names as the Committee of Petitioners share blame as well.

Hon. Jamilah Nasheed: 5th District Missouri Senator

Blake Lawrence: Chief Counsel to Senator Nasheed

Martin Casas: Krewson for Mayor; Rex Sinquefield’s Better Together; STL SwapMeet

Stephanie Lewis: Spokesperson for Rex Sinquefield’s NoETax campaign

Jennifer Florida: former Recorder of Deeds, former 15th Ward Alderwoman