Norfolk County Commissioners Record Spar Over Report

DEDHAM, MA – Norfolk County Commissioners held a hybrid meeting with Norfolk County Deeds Register William O’Donnell to discuss the findings of a report made to find ways to streamline county procedures.

Since its publication in October, O’Donnell has challenged the findings of the Abrahams Report, a year-long analysis of county departments that recommended consolidating his office’s information technology department with that of Norfolk County.

The two sides discussed the results today in what became a heated exchange where commissioners accused O’Donnell of spreading false information about the report to the media and by email to residents. O’Donnell has said he has a right to defend keeping his IT department as it is.

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“The Abrahams group [report] was an effort by the county to consolidate as much as possible and make the county as efficient as possible, ”said Commissioner Peter Collins of Milton.

“We believe the registry is a sound, customer-centric operation,” O’Donnell said as he began his statement to the Commissioners. “And he’s definitely using the technology.”

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He noted that his department “has not experienced a single day of uninterrupted service during the pandemic.” He praised the staff and the technology they use.

O’Donnell said he agreed with parts of the Abrams report, which contained a year-long assessment of county departments as of March 2020 – the site’s IT service.

“Obviously, we have a little controversy over the information technology,” he continued, saying the report “seriously affects” his two-person IT department.

his department website includes a letter dated October 15 to “prevent the elimination” of the IT department as well as a petition to this effect.

O’Donnell asked several people to share their experiences of working in his department so that Commissioners could get a feel for the need for an on-site IT department.

As the first Deed Register Assistant, Ed Wheeler spoke to the Commissioners and offered his perspective on his previous work at the Middlesex South Register. He noted that documents should be processed in a timely manner.

“There are some inaccuracies that I found,” he said of the report, noting that it indicated the office processed fewer documents than in 2019, as a graph showed that there were more.

Wheeler also noted that there had been no input from “stakeholders,” including the Real Estate Bar Association and the Massachusetts Association of Title Association, or the Greater Boston Real Estate Board.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he added of the IT department.

The deed registry runs on the government’s electronic software system BROWNtech, added O’Donnell, which is not in use by other county departments.

Canton Commissioner Richard Staiti noted that a technician is usually called in when there is a problem with a computer. O’Donnell responded that his employees have an “all stakeholder on deck” approach and have knowledge of other areas of the department.

Staiti pointed out that the IT person is not being eliminated, as O’Donnell previously wrote in a statement, but could be moved to another office. He also said the report “made only one recommendation”.

“We are here to do our best for the county,” he added.

He also suggested a compromise of an independent study by an IT expert to assess internal staffing needs.

Commissioner Joseph Shea de Quincy lambasted O’Donnell for spreading false information about the IT department “wiped out” from his office.

“I have read these claims seven times,” he said, noting that he had also heard it in an interview on Quincy’s local access cable on November 19. He also read it in “several e-mails and periodicals throughout Norfolk County”.

“Nowhere has the word ‘elimination’ been used,” Shea said in reference to the report. “Nowhere does it say that IT staff should not be present at the register of acts.

“Yet the Registry chose to spend more than three months attacking a false and very misleading premise,” he continued.

Shea also said that while O’Donnell criticized the Abrahams group for never visiting the office, there had been communication between the analyst and O’Donnell or members of his staff via email “more 60 times between July 14, 2021 and October 4, 2021. ”

The Abrahams group also sent 46 questionnaires to staff members, of which only 16 were returned, he said, the lowest return rate of any department surveyed.

“Yet the voluminous letters of the register would lead you to believe that the effort of the Abrahams group was undertaken in a vacuum,” he added.

He also accused O’Donnell “of falsely reporting in a letter dated October 29, 2021 that the Abrahams group study cost $ 175,000.”

“The comprehensive review cost $ 78,800 in total,” Shea said.

He added that this report was the first such review conducted by a county in the state.

Cyber ​​security was another issue mentioned by Shea.

“What you didn’t say is that the Abrahams Group study recommended exactly what you demand – additional independent and comprehensive safety reviews,” Shea said.

“Unfortunately, misleading claims have hampered an honest and open verification process of this report,” he added. “As county commissioners, we take our responsibilities to the citizens of this county very seriously.”

From there, the conversation passed.

“We have come here to open a dialogue,” replied O’Donnell, adding that “consolidation is a euphemism for elimination.”

“I don’t think it’s an elimination,” Staiti replied, adding that no decision had been made. “I see it as a reorganization.”

“A lot of it seems to be personal,” O’Donnell retorted. “I defend. A lot of people may not like defense. I defend the interests of people who use the Registry.”

“I commend you as a lawyer for standing up for what you want,” Staiti replied. “I understand that. I think you maybe stretched it a bit. “

“You talk about misinformation, but the misinformation comes from you and your staff,” Collins said. “You really shocked a lot of people when you sent out your various communications, and it was wrong.”

“Let’s lift the hostility,” Staiti said at the end of the meeting. “Moving forward.”

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