This is part of a series of essays which demonstrate why a much heralded by some Abrahams Study when it comes to the Norfolk Registry of Deeds and Registry Technology is flat out wrong. Recommendations to eliminate the on-site Registry Chief Information (CIO) and the on-site Registry IT Technology Department which has been an integral part of the Norfolk Registry of Deeds operations for decades is not a sound policy. These misguided recommendations from a paid consultant who never visited the Norfolk Registry of Deeds do not recognize the role the Registry IT Technology Department has had on modernization initiatives that have benefited Registry users and Norfolk County residents.
A Register of Deeds is tasked to run the Registry of Deeds by state law and the voters. The Norfolk Registry of Deeds is a place where land records from the deed to your home and business, from the homestead that protects your home to the mortgage discharge that tells the world your loan has been paid off all are recorded. During the last fiscal year over 205,000 land record documents got recorded and processed by the Norfolk Registry of Deeds. These recordings could not be done without a dedicated staff. But it also could not be accomplished without using technology as well as the expertise and knowledge of the Registry IT Technology Department. As Register of Deeds it is my fiduciary duty to fight these bad policy recommendations on behalf of home and business owners who rely on the land records and data at the Registry of Deeds for the legal title to those homes and businesses. There are frauds going on now as it is that involve stealing the legal title to homes and property. Imagine what would happen at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds if there was no on-site Registry IT Technology Department to at least battle the cybersecurity predators and criminals.
State law requires monies to be collected by all 21 of the Registries in Massachusetts. The Norfolk Registry of Deeds collected over 81 million dollars during the last fiscal year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. These monies got collected using technology. If there is no on-site Registry IT Technology Department what could happen to this money which comes back to cities and towns in the form of local aid, public safety, educational reimbursements as well as social services programs? If there is no on-site Registry IT Technology Department in the Registry building working with and helping Registry staff collect Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds through the use of technology what could happen to those Community Preservation Act projects in the cities and towns of Norfolk County? Nothing good is coming out of this “Abrahams recommendation” as there are too many possible bad outcomes that could take place without a robust on-site Registry IT Technology Department.
The report of consultant, Mark Abrahams, who never came by the Norfolk Registry of Deeds as part of his study, just does not properly recognize the role of the Registry IT Technology Department has in the overall scheme of operations at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds. Does anyone think in five years there is going to be less technology in protecting the land records that authenticate the title to your home or in providing services to Registry users, departments in county municipalities and the general public? Technology will continue to transform and be an integral part of our day to day society. Another question that needs to be answered is why make a recommendation to get rid of a 2 permanent person Registry IT Technology Department in this age of cybersecurity attacks and ransomware? There is a newly appointed legislative committee at the Massachusetts State House that is examining cybersecurity and the tremendous costs in terms of money and operations on towns, businesses even a local ferry system that have been victims of cybersecurity intrusions and breaches. Paid consultant Mark Abrahams missed the boat on his study of the Norfolk Registry of Deeds and its IT Technology Department. It is crucial that the Norfolk County Commissioners recognize this and do not implement the Abrahams recommendations as it relates to the Norfolk Registry of Deeds.
Another compelling reason to totally disregard Mark Abrahams’ IT Technology recommendations is that right in his report Mr. Abrahams states “IT security is not part of our scope.” How can someone in this day and age of cybersecurity breaches and ransomware be making any IT Technology recommendations when you did NOT look at IT security? It would be a dereliction of duty amounting to negligence some may argue gross negligence to act on IT Technology recommendations at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds made by a paid consultant where “IT security is not part of our scope.” What is at stake is the land records and data that are used to authenticate the legal real estate title to your home as well as your business. The biggest asset most of us have is our home. This asset is too valuable to act on recommendations of a paid consultant who also wrote “…we are not security experts, however cybersecurity and disaster recovery came up in our interviews and meetings.” Mark Abrahams and his assistant who looked at “Information Technology” are not proficient in cybersecurity why should their IT Technology recommendations be followed?
Some may argue you should not be even making any IT Technology recommendations in this day and age without assessing cybersecurity. In courts of law individuals come in to offer opinions on various subject matters. However, before these persons give an opinion to a jury a judge would examine their credentials to be an “expert” and give an opinion. Who can forget the trial court scene when Joe Pesci as criminal defense attorney Vinny Gambini was trying to qualify Marisa Tomei as Mona Lisa Vito as an automobile expert in the comedy movie “My Cousin Vinnie.” Unlike Mona Lisa Vito in the movie however, Mark Abrahams and his opinions on Information Technology should be disqualified. This paid consultant is not qualified to give an opinion on Information Technology. It is not just an unsound decision to just accept Mr. Abrahams IT Technology recommendations, it borders on reckless given all the possible negative impacts and bad outcomes that could take place in implementing Information Technology (IT) recommendations made by this paid consultant.
The Abrahams IT Registry technology recommendations are not about saving money. The Norfolk Registry IT Technology Department is a 2 permanent persons operation. Mark Abrahams writes in his report “We feel that from a management perspective, the IT operations are being well run considering the limited staff.” All things being fair and equal those words should end any debate about eliminating the on-site Registry IT Technology Department working at the Registry building for and with Registry staff, Registry users, Norfolk County municipal governments and the general public.
If you are as concerned about this matter as I am or have received good service from the Norfolk Registry of Deeds, please feel free to sign the online petition linked here https://chng.it/YY9MvxNqcq. Please contact the three Norfolk County Commissioners that will make this decision. Norfolk County Commissioners, Joseph P. Shea, Chair, Peter H. Collins, Richard R. Staiti 614 High Street, Dedham, MA 02026 Or email them at: JandJSheaquincy@gmail.com, Petercollins@collinsandcollinspc.com Rrstaiti55@yahoo.com