McFowland Wants Ward Endorsements, Pledges to Retain Recorder Employees

My Friday evening email to members of the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee:

I am writing to ask for your support in the August 5th Primary. I hope that those of you who had endorsed former Recorder Sharon Carpenter will now get behind my campaign and elect me and my Agenda.

If wards allow Sharon Carpenter to wins the Primary, it’s a black eye for the Democratic Party. There are more problems in that office’s management than nepotism.

The latest rumor is that Mayor Slay will make a political appointment for the office who will run as an Independent. Democratic Party officials do not support Independent candidates.

I had previously recommended that Mayor Slay appoint someone not political.

I want each of you to know and pass along to your patronage workers in the Recorder office that, other than the Chief Deputy, all Recorder employees will remain Recorder employees after I am elected. As Recorder, when I fire someone, it will be for cause, not politics.

I know some others are not going to be happy about that because right now they’re thinking patronage jobs will become available when I am elected. The facts are that these employees have valuable skills necessary to operation of the office and they have legal rights.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds

Recorder’s DD214 Service Needs Promoting

My Friday morning email to members of the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee:

Thursday, I went to the Recorder of Deeds office and recorded my DD214 Military Discharge.

This is a free service provided by Recorders across the U.S.A. under state laws. They record your Military Discharge and it’s there when you or your spouse need a copy, which you get for free.

If you lose your original, it takes only a few minutes to get a copy from the Recorder’s office. A few minutes sure beats the National Personnel Records Center’s “within 10 days” response time.

But had I not been running for Recorder of Deeds and educating myself on Recorder services, I might not ever have known that Recorders assist Veterans in this way.

As a U.S. Army Veteran, it really bothers me that more Veterans are not aware of this service.

As Recorder, I will make it my job to educate veterans on free Military Discharge recording. I will talk with veterans groups and provide an information table at veterans-related events.

Each year around Veterans Day, I’d remind City employees that this service is available and ask them to spread the word to family and friends.

Perhaps there are some creative people who would donate their services to produce a public service announcement targeting Veterans. I know there are community leaders who are Veterans who would participate.

And there should be a brochure at Soldiers Memorial Military Museum about Military Discharge recording. I also hope to partner with Soldiers Memorial on history and genealogy events and exhibits.

I received excellent service when my DD214 was recorded. As Recorder, I will work hard to make sure more Veterans receive this same excellent service.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds

What Is Equality In Service?

My Wednesday email to members of the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee.

Recorder Sharon Carpenter says she is committed to “providing equality in service for all St. Louis citizens.”

Her campaign website, however, does not provide any information on what she means by equality in service. There’s no description of her specific accomplishments over the past four years or her agenda for another term. My Action Plan is online.

I had never heard of the term “equality in service” before seeing her website. I have now had some time to think about it.

In the case of the Recorder of Deeds office, I believe “equality in service” means a number of things relating to accessibility.

Equality in service means treating everyone well, citizens and non-citizens alike and making the Recorder’s office immigrant-friendly.

Equality in service means accessibility and convenience for everyone, St. Louisans and people from afar alike, the mobile and mobility-challenged alike. The Recorder’s office should be as friendly to those conducting business or personal research from a computer at office or home as it is to walk-in customers.

Equality in service means online access to land and marriage indexes at no charge and opportunity to purchase copies online, the same services presently provided only to the Recorder’s paid subscriber businesses. If so many of Missouri’s First Class Counties can provide these services at no fee to customers, why not the St. Louis City Recorder?

Equality in service means issuing a marriage license to every gay and lesbian couple wanting one when a court rules in marriage equality’s favor or voters right the wrong of 2004’s Amendment 2.

Equality in service means a Personnel policy at the Recorder’s office that treats employees fairly and equally, including an employee evaluation program which rewards team work, professionalism, productivity, and improvement.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds

City Hall Passport Office & Immigrant-Friendly Recorder Services

My Wednesday email to members of the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee.

As Recorder, I will pursue designation of one or more Recorder of Deeds employees as U.S. Passport Acceptance Agents.

22 CFR 51.22 (Passport agents and passport acceptance agents) permits the Department of State to authorize “Any other person specifically designated by the Department” to serve as agents.

Libraries across Missouri, including the Kirkwood Public Library and three public libraries in Jefferson County, are Passport Offices. Why not the library of public records for the City of St. Louis?

You need a Birth Certificate copy to get a passport. The City Recorder’s Office is a copy center for State of Missouri Birth Certificates. Combining birth record services with Passport services is a great match.

The Downtown Post-Office Passport Office is open 9 am to 4 pm. The Recorder’s Office is open 8 am to 5 pm. More hours for passport customers, means more convenient.

I believe a City Hall Passport Office would be well received and we would make a little more money for the City with the additional Birth Certificate copy sales.

Let me also add that I think publishing Recorder services information in Spanish and Bosnian is long overdue.

For starters, the Recorder has a Birth and Death Records services brochure and Marriage License services brochure that should already have been translated into Spanish and Bosnian, published on the website, printed, and copies made available to various institutions and nonprofits serving the Spanish-speaking and Bosnian-speaking communities.

As Recorder, I will work with our immigrant communities and service providers to make the Recorder of Deeds Office customer-friendly to all residents.

We can add Passport services and make the Recorder’s Office immigrant-friendly within the Recorder’s current budget.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds

City Counselor Office Responds to Sunshine Request for Info on Recorder Fund & City Car

In a strange turn of events, the City Counselor’s Office is now representing Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter on Sunshine requests for records on use of the Recorder’s Technology and Preservation Fund and her city-issued vehicle.

How many days does it take to find and copy thirteen checks from 2009-2014? According to the City Counselor’s Office, more than three days.

How many days does it take to find and copy 40-50 pages of credit card statements from 2009-2014? According to the City Counselor’s Office, more than three days.

How many days does it take to find and copy a mileage log for a city vehicle? According to the City Counselor’s Office, more than three days.

Here is the letter dated June 30th from Matthews S. Dionne, Assistant City Counselor.

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“We are reviewing the request to determine what records we have that are responsive to your request…,” wrote Mr. Dionne.

This is very confusing because the Recorder’s Technology and Preservation Fund is controlled entirely by the Recorder. It’s currently a checkbook, not an account with City Treasurer, in violation of state law.

Previously, I had asked Recorder Carpenter for information on the Recorder’s Technology and Preservation Fund. Instead of providing me with copies of checks and credit card statements, she sent me an elaborate spread sheet with various explanations of expenditures. She billed me $280 for creating the spread sheet.

My most recent requests were for copies of thirteen checks missing from the spreadsheet Recorder Carpenter previously sent me and copies of certain credit card statements relating to travel and food.
missingcheckscreditcard2

Recorder Carpenter agreed to maintain a vehicle mileage log per a 2010 State Audit. When I spoke with her at her office about mileage records, she told me the car was a 100% taxable benefit and she did not have to keep a log.

If that’s the case, I should have received a letter the next day stating there was no mileage log. Instead, I had to send a second letter and now the City Counselor is involved.

I hope Recorder Carpenter is not creating a mileage log to satisfy the Sunshine request, similar to creating the Recorder Fund spreadsheet, and planning on billing me for data entry and creative writing.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds

Update: Nepotism at Recorder’s Office

I have received the following response from Timothy Boyer, Director, White Collar Crime Unit, Circuit Attorney Office, to my letters on nepotism in the Recorder of Deeds office.

circuitatty3

I have asked Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce to remove Recorder Sharon Carpenter for violating Article 7, Section 6 of the Missouri Constitution by employing a family member within the fourth degree.

From 2010-2012, Recorder Carpenter paid $12,015 from the Recorder’s Technology and Preservation Fund, a fund which she alone controls under state law, to Rudy Brynac, her great-nephew for “temporary employment” in her Archives Department.

I am not surprised that the letter did not come from Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce. I respect that this is being handled by staff to avoid any conflict of interest. The Circuit Attorney has been a supporter and contributor to Recorder Carpenter’s re-election campaign. Her father and mother served as 23rd Ward Alderman, where Carpenter has been committeewoman since 1964.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds

Ed’s Plan to Create St. Louis City Hall Historical Society

In my Saturday email to members of the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee, I wrote:

As we think about our nation’s history this Independence Day weekend, let’s also think about our City’s history and how we can better promote and share it.

I’ve received some capital ideas from voters on how we can market Recorder services, to increase revenue to the City, and promote our City’s history and City Hall as a tourist destination.

I believe that the best way to pay for “extras” is to create a nonprofit to raise funds for projects, not ask for City General Revenue or use money from the Recorder’s Technology and Preservation Fund.

As Recorder, I will incorporate St. Louis City Hall Historical Society for the following purposes:

  • To sponsor events promoting the Recorder’s marriage license, birth record, and genealogy services, including customer incentives, social events, seminars, conferences, and exhibits;
  • To sponsor events celebrating the history, art, and people of City Hall, including tours of City Hall, on occasion with tour guides in historical costume, an annual February 14th St. Louis Birthday Party, and events honoring City Founder Pierre Laclede and President U.S. Grant, whose statues are on the City Hall grounds;
  • To sponsor events celebrating the history of the City of St. Louis using public records, including the contributions of women, African Americans, Native Americans, and ethnic groups. 
  • To establish a volunteer program to assist with City Hall tours, special events, and projects relating to old records;
  • To partner with other public agencies and departments, institutions, and nonprofits on events and projects;
  • To provide for continuing education of Recorder of Deeds employees;
  • To establish a Recorder of Deeds internship program; and
  • To hold fundraisers and apply for grants to pay for the nonprofit’s activities.

This nonprofit would work in conjunction with the Recorder of Deeds office but have its own website and provide for full accounting of funds raised and spent on the website.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds

Ed’s Plan for City Hall Tours and Expanded Recorder Hours

Thursday, I wrote members of the St. Louis Democratic City Committee about my plan to expand hours at the Recorder of Deeds office and provide tours of City Hall.

As Recorder, I will, on a trial basis, provide Research Saturdays to allow family tree researchers weekend opportunities to use indexes, review documents, and buy copies. Public libraries are open on Saturdays. Why not the City’s library of public records?

I will try two Saturday mornings for a few months and then evaluate the response.

I believe we can expand hours with present staffing and without comp time and the result will be additional copy sales (more revenue to the City).

As Recorder, I will explore opportunities for the Recorder’s office to partner with Downtown institutions (Soldiers Memorial Museum, Central Library, Old Courthouse, Museum of Westward Expansion, Campbell House, Eugene Field Toy Museum) on special events relating to genealogy and history on Research Saturdays and other days.

As Recorder, I will ensure that City Hall has City Hall tours. As keeper of St. Louis historic public records, it makes sense that the Recorder’s Office should provide this service.

The Recorder’s office will have numerous employees trained to provide these tours. Tours will be provided on Research Saturdays, a shorter version because of closed offices. Tours will be free.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds

Ed’s Plan For More Downtown Weddings

My Tuesday email to members of the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee.

While St. Louis City is thinking about weddings, I’d like to share an idea on a new service that I’d like to provide as Recorder. I think it would bring in a little more revenue to the City.

As noted in my Action Plan, I will lobby the Recorders of Association of Missouri to support passage of, and lobby Missouri Legislature to adopt, a law to enable county Recorders to perform civil marriage ceremonies.

Upon passage, I will provide civil ceremonies at City Hall and other locations for a small fee or perhaps for free. I’d be interested in feedback on the issue of a fee.

This service is needed. Judges in Missouri may perform civil ceremonies at no fee at courthouses but the Circuit Court judges in the City only officiate on Friday afternoons and County judges only on Wednesday afternoons. Unless you personally know a judge, you are otherwise out of luck for a civil wedding in St. Louis.

In addition to City Hall, there are beautiful places Downtown within walking distance of City Hall that would make wonderful locations for civil ceremonies: The Wedding (Meeting) of the Waters Fountain at Aloe Plaza across from Union Station, Soldiers Memorial, City Garden Park, Kiener Plaza Waterfall, Gateway Arch Grounds. Perhaps some couples would like to be married in civil ceremonies at events such as Forest Park Balloon Race or Mardi Gras Parade.

I would require that the couple obtain their marriage license from the City Recorder. If we provide civil ceremonies at great locations, I believe more couples will get their marriage license in the City, instead of neighboring counties, meaning more revenue for the City.

State laws on who can perform a marriage ceremony vary. In California, the county clerks who issue licenses also perform wedding ceremonies. In Maine, notary publics can solemnize a marriage. In New York State, mayors and former mayors can perform weddings. In Colorado, a couple can officiate at their own ceremony.

Again, feedback on the ceremony fee issue or the idea in general would be appreciated.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds

Recorder Carpenter Fails To Respond to Sunshine Request

I have been trying to get copies of the mileage logs for St. Louis City Recorder’s City-issued car from January 1, 2011 thru March 31, 2014. I have hand delivered two requests to Recorder Sharon Carpenter’s office, including one a week ago, June 25th.

Comptroller Darlene Green has sent me the mileage reported by Recorder Carpenter for IRS purposes. These records show a great deal more in commuting miles to and from work than what is generally held to have been Carpenter’s infrequent visits to her City Hall office over recent years. My hope is the mileage logs will shed some light on her use of the taxpayer funded car.

Recorder Carpenter agreed to maintain a Vehicle Use Log for the car as a result of the January 2010 Audit by Missouri State Auditor Susan Montee.

The Audit stated:

“The Recorder used a city-owned vehicle for personal use and did not maintain vehicle usage logs to document commuting and personal use of the vehicle. The Recorder reported estimated personal usage of 4,000 miles and commuting usage of 4,844 miles to the City Comptroller’s office for calendar year 2008 and was taxed for this usage. The Recorder does not maintain a vehicle usage log to document miles driven for official, commuting, and personal use. Service department records show the vehicle was driven a total of approximately 13,000 miles during 2008.”

“Without adequate usage logs, the Recorder cannot effectively demonstrate the purpose for which the vehicle is used. Vehicle usage logs should include trip information (i.e., beginning and ending odometer readings, destination, and purpose).”

“WE RECOMMEND the Recorder of Deeds prepare a vehicle usage log to ensure personal and commuting mileage reported for compensation is adequately supported.”

According to the Audit, Recorder Carpenter responded in the affirmative.

“The Recorder provided the following written response:
The Recorder has implemented this recommendation.”

This is not the first time, Recorder Carpenter has not responded in a timely manner to a Chapter 610, Revised Statutes of Missouri request for public records. She took a month to respond to my request for copies of records relating the Recorder’s Technology and Preservation Fund.

It is disturbing that a public records office has such a hard time providing public records on its finances.

Edward McFowland 314-600-1261
Democratic Candidate for Recorder of Deeds