Cassidy Tandy for Tulsa County Clerk: A commitment to transparency

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CassidyTandy.JPGTulsa County Clerk Earlene Wilson is retiring after 12 years in the office. Three candidates are running for the Republican nomination to replace Wilson: Pat Key, Dean Martin, and Cassidy Tandy. It is the only contested county election, and the winner of the Republican primary will win the seat -- only Republicans filed for the office. I will be voting for Cassidy Tandy.

She has eight years experience as a county employee, but Cassidy Tandy, a senior appraiser in the County Assessor's office, is the youngest of the three candidates, which is a distinct plus in this race, as the Tulsa County Clerk's office has long been in desperate need of a new, public-centered approach to maintaining public records. Tandy is of the generation that expects information, especially government information, to be readily available online, and that expectation informs her vision for the County Clerk's office. As she wrote in reply to my question:

I would like to see substantial reform in the manner in which public information is made available to the taxpayers. Currently there are only two methods in which to obtain public documents and information from the Clerk's office. One is to physically drive downtown or to a branch of the public library, and the other is to pay for a subscriber based service at a monthly rate.

In today's fast-paced and business-driven environment, timing can be very important. Easier access to records, without giving up proprietary information, should be made available quickly and without charge. The taxpayers have already paid for the technology, and the infrastructure is in place to allow such a delivery method. Why should taxpayers be burdened with additional out-of-pocket expenses for the cost of a one-time, off-the-shelf software purchase or a program that can be administered in house?

The inconvenience of driving to the county courthouse to get complete information about property transactions is no accident, sadly. It's part of the philosophy of the incumbent, a philosophy I assume is shared by Key, the current deputy. The incumbent administration seems to see public access as a problem to be managed, not as an opportunity to serve the public interest. There's a stark difference between the openness and ease of access to be found on the Oklahoma County Clerk's website compared to what you find on the Tulsa County Clerk's website.

Under Pat Key's leadership at the County Clerk's office, if you want online access to complete Tulsa County land records in the LRMIS system, not only do you have to pay a monthly fee, you have to appear before the county commission and ask their permission.

It's a telling detail: Pat Key's campaign doesn't even have a website. Do we really want a keeper of public records who acts like the internet doesn't exist?

Tandy also wants to make all county expenditures and financial data readily available online. The idea of posting the government's checkbook online, with the ability to search individual transactions, is spreading to state, county, and municipal governments across the country.

She also points out a serious deficiency in the County Clerk's online databases -- the absence of the parcel number, which is used by the County Assessor's office and the County Treasurer's office to track land valuation and taxation. By law this same parcel number should be available for searching County Clerk land records, too, but it's not available in the Tulsa County Clerk system acquired by the Wilson/Key administration.

Beyond the specific responsibilities of the County Clerk, she also serves as a member of the Tulsa County Budget Board. As we saw last week, that's another area where more openness and accountability is required. County Assessor Ken Yazel was the only one of the county's eight elected officials to stand up for a budget that covers all county expenditures, not just the tiny percentage in the general fund. Tandy shares Yazel's commitment to open and complete information to the taxpayer, as opposed to the frustrating resistance to greater and more accessible public disclosure on the part of the Wilson/Key administration.

Long-time readers will know that I've long been frustrated by the Earlene Wilson/Pat Key administration's foot-dragging on public disclosure. (Here's a complaint from 2004, a response to a March 2009 Journal Record column by Ted Streuli titled "Tulsa County Clerk Earlene Wilson is picking your pocket," and a concern raised this year when Pat Key might not draw an opponent.) Pat Key was Wilson's deputy throughout Wilson's tenure as County Clerk and never raised a public objection, as far as I've found, to Wilson's access-thwarting policies.

Land records play an important role in knowing what's going on around Tulsa and are also an important historic resource. As a blogger with a day job, I need access whenever I have time to research and write, which is not during the county clerk's regular business hours. The current system favors those in the real estate and development industry to the disadvantage of the individual citizen.

Another County Clerk responsibility is acting as secretary to the county's boards and commissions. You will look in vain on the Earlene Wilson/Pat Key county clerk's website for meeting minutes or detailed backup material for meeting agendas online. We expect that sort of detail on the Tulsa City Council's website, and we ought to expect it from the county as well.

We need a change in the Tulsa County Clerk's office. We need a candidate who gets the importance of internet access to public records to an informed public. As Tulsa County Clerk, Cassidy Tandy will bring online transparency and accessibility to Tulsa County's public records. Please join me in voting for her in the June 26, 2012, primary.

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For your convenience, here is a list of the candidates I've endorsed, will be voting for, or otherwise recommend in the June 26, 2012, Oklahoma Republican primary. Early voting is already underway; as this is a Federal election, early voting ("in-perso... Read More

Another race that will be decided in the August 28, 2012, runoff election is the race for Tulsa County Clerk. No Democrats filed for the open seat, and none of the three candidates received a majority in the June primary, so the runoff between the top ... Read More

2 Comments

roy said:

A vote for Tandy encourages developing sunshine in gov't. May that sunshine reach more corners. Would really like to hear Wilson's and Key's response to the reasoning of this post. I assume they are honest, competent people. That leads me to conclude they must have some sort of reason for resisting putting cards face up on the table. But while that strategy makes no sense in (most) card games,I'm hard put to understand it as good in gov't. Except in warfare.

Paul said:

Thank you for posting this information, Michael.

When researching land records on the current County Clerk's website, I hate the fact that I must spend so much time looking for the full legal description instead of simply entering the parcel number. The Clerk's records ought to be searchable either way, as the Assessor's are.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 13, 2012 9:51 PM.

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