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September 27, 2011

Idoni’s Bill Advocacy Will Lead to Efficient and Effective Public and Private Sector Services 

 

On Friday, September 23, 2011, Governor Cuomo ended New York’s distinction as the only state that did not allow electronic recording of land records such as deeds and mortgages.  “The enactment of this legislation is a key step forward in our mission to make government easy and more efficient,” began Westchester County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni, the co-chair of the New York State Association of County Clerks’ (NYSACC) Electronic Recording Committee and a leading proponent of the legislation. “We will soon be able to provide better service at a lower cost to Westchester County taxpayers,” he continued.  Idoni cited the following benefits that will come with electronic recording:

  • Government Efficiency:  Document images move through daily workflow more efficiently than paper documents.
  • Private Sector Efficiency:  Delivery time delays and risk of document loss are eliminated, while the document rejections and recording times are reduced.
  • Consumer Protection:  Ownership and loan documents are placed on record more quickly, confirming ownership and reducing the risk of mortgage fraud.
  • Government Costs Reduced:  Documents submitted electronically do not need to be scanned or mailed; eliminating scanning and document return costs.
  • Private Sector Costs Reduced:  Documents no longer need to be sent via messenger, overnight mail or regular mail to a County Clerk’s Office.
  • A Green Initiative:  Paperless documents, in addition to scanned images, are now authorized and paper mailing supplies are eliminated.
  • Private Sector Convenience:  Documents can be submitted at any hour of the day, even if the office is closed, and can be submitted from any location with an internet connection.

The State now has twelve months to enact consistent standards through the New York State Office for Technology.  “Our focus now shifts to providing a consistent approach in the offices of County Clerks and the New York City Register,” continued Idoni.  The program is voluntary. When electronic recording goes into effect, each County Clerk or the City Register will choose whether to participate.  A participating office will provide the following options:

  • Hardcopy paper filings can still be delivered for recording; or
  • Hardcopy paper filings can be scanned by a customer and electronically submitted for recording; or
  • An electronic record, containing any necessary electronic signatures, can be electronically submitted for recording.

“We are grateful to our many partners in this process who understood that there were efficiencies and cost-savings to be captured for both the public and private sector,” stated Idoni.    NYSACC made electronic recording their sole 2011 legislative priority which received support from the New York State Land Title Association, the New York State Bar Association and the New York Bankers Association.  The legislation was sponsored in the Senate (S.2373A) by Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the Assembly (A.6870A) by Assemblyman George Latimer.  Idoni also noted the assistance of the staffs of Governor Paterson, Governor Cuomo, the Assembly Judiciary Committee and Albany County Clerk Thomas Clingan in the drafting of the legislation.

For more information on the Office of the Westchester County Clerk, visit www.WestchesterClerk.com or call (914)995-3080.

 

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

WHITE PLAINS:   The Office of the Westchester County Clerk has been awarded a state grant that will eliminate the expense of storing large volumes of inactive records in offsite storage facilities.   The grant from the New York State Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund (LGRMIF) will improve the overall records management system of the Clerk’s Office by doing away with the redundancy of storing files that are already digitally imaged and available electronically to the public.  The savings in storage costs and greater efficiency are but a few of many positive outcomes resulting from the awarding of this grant.

 

 “Legal files make up the majority of records maintained by the County Clerk’s office,” began County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni in describing his office’s process of docketing, imaging and storing hard copy files. “Maintaining over forty eight thousand (48,000) boxes of records at an annual cost of $7.25 per box stored at the County Records Center is expensive and inefficient. With the help of this grant, we can continue our transition from a traditionally paper focused office to one that is digitally-based across all services,” stated Idoni.

 

The grant provides funding to eliminate the storage and related expenses for a discreet set of mostly inactive legal files dated from 2002 to 2004.  By eliminating storage, transportation and maintenance needs, staff resources can be reallocated to support other initiatives, such as electronic filing, which will greatly improve the overall services the office provides to Westchester County residents.    

 

LGRMIF is funded through a small twenty-five cent state surcharge on all documents recorded in County Clerks’ offices throughout the state.  The funds are then converted into competitive grants awarded to preserve New York State history and heritage.   Since becoming County Clerk, Idoni’s office has received two LGRMIF grants to make Land Record maps available online and to more quickly access matrimonial judgments for litigants seeking them.  “We are grateful to once again receive a LGRMIF grant to help us continue to provide even more efficient services at a substantial cost savings,” concluded Idoni.

 

The Office of the Westchester County Clerk, which is located at 110 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in White Plains, is open between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays.  For more information, call 995-3080 or visit our website at www.westchesterclerk.com.

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November 15, 2011

County Clerk offers ways to avoid home repair rip-offs

WHITE PLAINS, NY:   Westchester County residents are fed–up with recent storms including Hurricane Irene and the surprise Nor’easter which dumped many inches of snow and rain, brought down hundreds of trees and wires, and caused a record number of widespread power outages throughout the county.  “Among the hardest hit by these devastating storms are seniors,” shared Westchester County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni, who has visited with more than seven hundred seniors throughout the county this fall.  “As many seniors live alone, they may be more vulnerable to home improvement rip-offs,“ continued Idoni who visits senior centers throughout the county to alert our older residents about rip-offs targeting seniors.   To help avoid common pitfalls that can unnecessarily cost seniors their hard-earned life savings, County Clerk Idoni offers the following helpful tips:

  • Beware of unsolicited “Home Repairmen” showing up at your home.
  • Ask to see proof of a license before allowing a contractor, plumber or electrician into your home. 
  • Contact the County’s Consumer Protection department (914)995-2155 to check a contractor’s home improvement license.
  • Consult trusted family members, friends or an attorney before signing a contract or entering into a financial arrangement for repairs to your home.
  • Make sure to get any arrangement in writing and understand what you are signing, including reading the fine print before you agree to the provisions.
  • Don’t make a final payment until you are satisfied the work has been completed.
  • Ask “officials” such as utility workers to produce identification and confirm their employment status before letting them into your home.

The Licensing Division in the Office of the Westchester County Clerk is located at 110 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., White Plains and is open from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. A list of licensed electricians and plumbers in Westchester County is also available on the County Clerk website at www.WestchesterClerk.com.

November 22, 2011

 

Idoni Uses Technology to Reduce Personnel and Office Spending

 

WHITE PLAINS, NY: In 2006, County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni walked into an office that was months behind in its work and spending too much on personnel to accomplish it.  One hundred and ten (110) full time staff members were working hard, but the office had a reputation for long delays and incomplete work.  Fast forward five years … real property records are introduced into the system in less than a half day. Legal documents are being filed electronically.  Spending has been reduced by sixteen percent (16%) over that time period, staffing is down twenty-eight percent (28%) and the 2012 Operating Budget calls for seventy-eight and a half (78.5) staff members.

 

The Westchester County Clerk’s Office, long considered the epitome of bureaucracy and political patronage, has become a model for the State of New York in terms of governmental efficiency and professional management.   “We took a very simple approach to a complex problem,” Idoni began. “We saw the fiscal crisis coming, instituted programs that shifted work responsibilities through privatization, and started chipping away at the personnel costs without any layoffs.”

 

In 2009, the Clerk’s Office created the Property Records Electronic Portal (PREP), which automated data processing and the handling of payments for deeds and mortgages and as a result reduced the need for ten (10) positions in the budget. This contributed to a savings of over $ 850,000 a year. The department’s overtime and hourly costs have been reduced by ninety percent (90%) over the past five years. Idoni indicated the key to his plans was to not only reduce costs but actually improve services to the taxpayers of Westchester.  “We set out to be a leader in our industry both in service capability and cost containment.  I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far and there is more to come.”

                                                                                                                          

In 2011, in partnership with the State Office of Court Administration and Administrative Judge Alan Scheinkman, the Clerk’s Office instituted the second mandatory electronic filing (e-filing) program in New York State, which now has over fifty percent (50%) of all legal cases commenced electronically. In January 2012, the electronic commencement of tax certiorari and foreclosure actions is expected to become mandatory, expanding the mandatory program to cover seventy percent (70%) of all legal actions commenced in the County Clerk’s Office.  The county set records this year for the number of tax certiorari and small claims assessment reviews filed, making it all the more imperative to move these programs forward.  The program projects to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in scanning, postage, storage, and processing costs.

 

In fall 2012, the electronic recording of land documents is scheduled to commence.  Idoni led the charge in Albany to amend state law to allow for electronic documents to be recorded in county clerks’ offices throughout the state. Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law in September.   These e-initiatives save money in scanning, indexing, supplies, mail costs, storage, handling of payments and overall office efficiency. Eventually, personnel costs will drop, again. Idoni said in summary, “When I came into office we were handling over four million pieces of paper a year. That is three and a half million too many.”   

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November 7, 2011

 

Keep DD-214’s on File at the Westchester County Clerk’s Office

WHITE PLAINS, NY: As the nation prepares to celebrate Veterans Day commemorating the valor and service of our United States military men and women, Westchester County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni reminds Westchester County veterans of an important service available at his office. Veterans can keep copies of their military discharge papers on file at the County Clerk’s Office for safe keeping, free of charge.   

 

“Important documents, such as military discharge papers, can sometimes get lost or damaged,” began Idoni whose office maintains and preserves official documents and records for Westchester County.  “However, I want our veterans to consider the option to keep copies of their DD-214 military discharge papers on file at my office for safe-keeping.  If a copy is ever needed, the veteran, an immediate family member, a representative of their estate, and in certain instances a public official, can get a certified copy upon request.”

 

It takes only a few minutes to file a copy, free of charge of DD-214 military discharge papers with the County Clerk’s office.  Veterans should bring the original to the Legal Division of the office, where the clerk’s staff will make a digital copy. The copy is then sealed to protect and preserve privacy, filed, and the original returned to the veteran before they leave the office.

 

The staff at the Office of the Westchester County Clerk is available to assist veterans if they have any questions by calling (914)995-3070. The office, which is located at the 110 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in White Plains, is open from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. Information is also available on the County Clerk website at www.westchesterclerk.com.

 

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Translator

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Richard J. Daronco Courthouse
111 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
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