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Good deeds go online
8.7 million documents in county clerk files available on Internet

Richard Mize, Published: December 9, 2006
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They’re doing good deeds at the Oklahoma County Clerk’s Office — putting every land record on the books on the Internet, way ahead of most counties.

Almost all of some 8.7 million documents — 17 million pages — are online, from mortgage documents, mineral deeds, liens and other legal "papers,” from original land patents granted after the Land Run of 1889 to last week’s property deals, said Mark Mishoe, chief deputy for County Clerk Carolynn Caudill.

Universal Commercial Code documents, business and financial filings used to secure collateral, also are online for the entire state, since by statute most UCC filings in Oklahoma go to the Oklahoma County clerk.

It’s taken five years, but Caudill said people in real estate and the oil-and-gas business, among others, say the process has been worth it. The conversion cost about $2.5 million — from a $5 fee assessed since 2000 on most documents filed.

It’s paying for itself in increased government efficiency, said County Commissioner Jim Roth, who was the chief deputy clerk when the conversion began in 2001. Businesses that rely on county records also reap the benefit of going virtually "paperless,” he said.

Caudill said her staffing has remained steady even with increased responsibilities — and a housing boom that has broken records for home construction and land development.

Oklahoma County has been a national leader in the digitization of records, said Roth. Caudill’s office has presented seminars here and across the country to other custodians of public records.

In Oklahoma, title companies and energy companies, especially, are interested in other counties putting records online, Caudill said.

Some counties have resisted, she said, out of fear of "centralization.” But counties using software developed by her office, and putting their records online, would maintain actual and legal custody of their own records, Caudill said.

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Oklahoma County Clerk Carolynn Caudill stands in an Oklahoma County records file room at 320 Robert S. Kerr in Oklahoma City Wednesday. Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

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