Leader Blues

Saturday, October 24, 2009

TOP STORY >> Shift to electronic records favored

Leader editor

Pulaski County Clerk and Jacksonville native Pat O’Brien is working to improve the efficiency of record keeping in the state.

He was recently reappointed by Gov. Mike Beebe to the Electronic Recording Commission, where he serves as chair.

“The commission’s job is to promote electronic recording and online services,” O’Brien said, adding that specifically, the commission is slated with the advancement of putting real estate documents from courthouses online.

In 2007, when the state legislature voted to approve the formation of the commission, no counties in Arkansas were recording documents electronically.

Now, Pulaski and Benton counties are doing electronic recordings and several more counties are preparing for the task.

If more documents are being made more accessible to the public, that might pave the way for other court documents to be electronically recorded, O’Brien said.

But there is not yet a commission to handle that work. The legislature is working on drafting legislation that could allow for electric filing of other court documents, O’Brien said, which could lead to the beginning of that work as early as next year.

About 20 states have recording statutes to allow electronic filing.

O’Brien’s county clerk staff has been uploading real estate documents online, which are available for public viewing.

“(Those) online documents were going backwards,” O’Brien said, referring to their timeline. He said the work of the electronic recording is about “going forward.”

“The method by which (documents) get to us is changing,” he said. “(They) used to be brought to us in-person or were mailed.”

O’Brien said that if a title company in Fayetteville wants to change ownership of a Little Rock property, documents would formerly have to be mailed. “Now, you can do it electronically,” he explained.

There are benefits of communicating electronically. “For one, it’s cheaper,” O’Brien said. “You don’t have to use postage or utilize couriers” as many title companies do, he said.

Electronic recording is also faster. With paper, the process could take three or four days. “Now, we do it in 30 minutes.”

O’Brien graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1988 and holds a law degree from the University of Arkansas Law School.

He still lives in Jacksonville.

He is running as a Democrat for secretary of state in 2010.