By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Bell County residents will soon have the ability to electronically file paperwork with the county, eliminating the hassle of a trip to Belton.
The move comes after the Bell County Commissioner's Court Monday approved the purchase of a Microfilm MS-300II from DocuData and payment of fees for installation and training for E-Recording from ACS for the Bell County Clerk's Office using County Clerk records and management funds.
County Clerk Shelley Coston said the new system will be up and running within the next six months.
"It's going to make it much more accommodating for folks that get public records," Coston said. "Say a person pays back their mortgage, you want to record the release of lien in the County Clerk's office, (electronic filing) would make it much more accommodating.
Coston said the filing information will be available via a link on the county's Web site at the time the system becomes active.
A similar system is already up and running at the District Clerk's office, which has worked well up to this point, said a staffer in District Clerk Sheila Norman's office.
But Coston said no further property records will be available online – at least not in the near future. Part of the reason for that is that the clerks in the state of Texas are a bit more cautious, she said, because of some hassles they dealt with last year.
The county and district court clerical offices statewide were turned upside down in March of last year when an opinion issued from the attorney general caused a massive headache for the clerk system.
The law says that Social Security numbers are confidential and not open to the public. But attorneys and the public have had access to the court and county files, which contain those numbers. So when a clerk in Fort Bend County began to post the files online, County Attorney Roy Cordes Jr. sent a letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, asking if that practice was legal.
Abbott issued a legal opinion in which he stated that the confidentiality law surrounding Social Security numbers must be upheld, and all public files which contain Social Security numbers must be redacted, which simply means blacked out or made unreadable.
Redacting has caused the simple act of an attorney requesting a file to become exceedingly complicated.
Coston said the clerks in Texas are hesitant to put files online because the fear of similar complications looms since some property files contain confidential information.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568