LISBON - Brenda Dickey Myers, who is running in the March 6 Democratic primary election against Columbiana County Recorder Craig Brown, wasted little time in capitalizing on the party's endorsement of her over the incumbent.
Myers issued a news release Saturday critical of Brown, which came just two days after the county Democratic Party announced it had taken the rare step of endorsing in a party primary, and in doing so chose the challenger over the two-term incumbent.
Myers, in her news release, said she was bothered by the allegations of a former recorder's office employee who filed complaints accusing Brown of deliberately mispronouncing her first name in an offensive manner, even after she told him to stop.
"Like them, I am troubled by the frequency and nature of the public allegations concerning the misconduct of the current recorder, and behavior of that nature can never be tolerated by any officer, public or private," she said.
Brown said he quit using the nickname immediately after being told by his worker she found it offensive, although she said it had happened on three more occasions.
"I think everything that needs to be said has been said," he said, when contacted for the story. "It was a mistake ... and I apologized."
Myers said she is running because of Brown's job performance, which was described as "indefensible," and not the alleged incidents of improper comments.
She said since Brown took office in 2005, the average turnaround for recording and receiving documents has gone from two weeks to three months.
"That is unacceptable and wholly the fault of the person in charge of the office. Recorders' offices in Mahoning, Stark, Carroll and Jefferson counties all currently return recorded documents to their taxpayers in about one week and, in some cases, the same day. That is why I am running for county recorder," Myers said.
Brown was unfamiliar with the figures about the other counties quoted by Myers, but he disputed the implication, noting that in most cases someone who comes to his office can receive a copy within minutes.
He said if Myers is talking about processing a lease, that is another matter, noting the landscape in his office has changed radically in the past two years with the flood of new leases being recorded because of the natural gas boom under way in the county.
Brown estimated the number of gas leases processed over the past 18 months exceeds 10,000, and most of the people doing the deed searches on behalf of gas-drilling companies such as Chesapeake Energy "are pleased with the job we're doing."
Myers, in her campaign literature sent recently to Democrats, refers to a letter dated Dec. 8, 2011, in which Chesapeake officials tell county commissioners that lease documents from October had yet to be mailed and imaging of lease documents from October had yet to begin.
Brown noted he and his staff of four are doing the best they can under extremely difficult circumstances, especially considering other recorder offices in counties this size have seven or eight workers.
"This staff has never been asked to do so much under such demand ... It's amazing we're able to do all of this without two or three other people," he said, comparing the increase in workload with a four-person staff to trying to pour a liter of Coca Cola into a shot glass.
Brown said what is remarkable is they have been able to keep pace with the record demands on his office without any additional funding. "I've been forced to address these changes by working harder and smarter and with less money," he said.
If given a choice between speed versus accuracy, Brown said he will take the latter. "We are thorough because accuracy is so very important," he said.
Meanwhile, Brown said he has taken a number of steps in recent months in an attempt to speed up the process, such as acquiring additional digital-document readers (which were donated by Chesapeake after speaking with commissioners) and two new combination printer/readers.
He also recently ordered software that would allow for e-recording of documents, which would rapidly reduce recording time.
Brown said part of the reason for the delay is the companies securing the leases wait until they have hundreds before delivering the documents to them. "If you sign a lease in February, we might not see it until July or August," he said.
Brown said anyone is free to run for his job but they should at least have all the facts before criticizing him. He said Myers' criticism demonstrates a lack of understanding of how his office works.