Clerk seeks faster processing of land records

Conaway says tax checks, deeds languish in backlog

June 19, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway is asking the Baltimore finance department to more quickly process land records, including the transfer of tax checks that go uncashed for long periods, he said.

Conaway, a Democrat running for City Council president, said backlogs in the city's land records office have caused weeks of delays in the recording of deeds.

"It takes the city weeks to do simple clerical tasks that are done in a matter of days in most counties," said Conaway, who was elected in September.

Finance Director William Brown was out of town yesterday and unavailable to respond. Jennifer Sproul of the city's collection division said she was unaware of the problems.

Backlogs routinely occur at the end of the month, Sproul said, because people are trying to have deeds recorded by the start of the next month. June presents a particular problem because it is the last month of the city's fiscal year, Sproul said.

Conaway met this week with representatives of the real estate industry and Greater Board of Baltimore Realtors. The group complained that employees are forced to stand in line for up to four hours to process their documents, which sometimes take more than 60 days to be recorded, Conaway said.

One title company operator told Conaway that $80,000 in tax payments sat in the finance department for more than 60 days. Conaway said the city, which is facing a possible $153 million in budget deficits over the next four years, fails to earn interest on money that sits.

"With Baltimore's budget problems, we cannot afford to hold on to people's checks," Conaway said.

Conaway, whose wife, Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway is running for mayor, is asking city Comptroller Joan M. Pratt to audit the land records operation.

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