Sunday, June 12, 2011
Macomb County clerk sweeps national awards
By Chad Selweski
Macomb Daily Staff Writer
For two decades, Macomb dominated Michigan's other 82 counties in winning dozens of "good government" awards from a national organization.
But this year, one Macomb agency, the county Clerk's Office, has dominated by winning all six of Macomb's awards from the National Association of Counties. Clerk Carmella Sabaugh said she pulled off a clean sweep of this year's NACo awards by concentrating on efficiency and convenience when providing county services.
Though the Clerk's Office has endured a reduction of 20 workers and a budget cut of nearly $1 million since 2008, Sabaugh has introduced a long series of high-tech improvements to her agency. Her staff has now earned 38 NACo awards since she took office in 1993.
"No matter what you do, people always want to know,
'What have you done for me lately?' " said Sabaugh, the former Warren city clerk. "So, you've got to be on board with technology or you're not going anywhere."
The county clerk emphasized her appreciation for her "unionized" team of workers — in unmistakable contrast to repeated nationwide criticisms of bargaining rights for government employees — and praised her deputy clerk, Todd Schmitz, for his "vision" in generating numerous ideas for state-of-the-art improvements.
Sabaugh also earned kudos from county Executive Mark Hackel and county board Chairwoman Kathy Vosburg.
The awards are bestowed annually on innovative programs, and information about them is placed in a NACo national database, allowing other counties to emulate them.
Macomb County was Michigan's leader in NACo awards for 26 consecutive years until 2008, when its standing slipped. Since then, a slide has occurred, with Sabaugh winning half of Macomb's NACo awards bestowed last year.
NACo awards for Macomb County departments were unlikely this year as every aspect of the bureaucracy is retrenching to help eliminate budget deficits. On a more fundamental level, some departments now lack the manpower to compile a detailed nomination form. Continued...
The awards won by the Clerk's Office/Register of Deeds are for:
Making it easier for the public to follow online campaign money funneled to political candidates, including searches for contributions by individuals and businesses which makes it easy to cross-check and get the bigger picture during an election season. The new website system has been called "the most transparent in Michigan for reporting county and local political money," and "a model for other counties to follow."
Creating an online Register of Deeds entry book for property transactions, which has been hailed as the single-most important step undertaken by any clerk's office/register of deeds in the state to stem the tide of real estate fraud.
Upgrading the process of granting concealed weapons permits by issuing fraud-resistant, pocket-sized pistol licenses with digital photos of the permit holder.
Using the Google "Checkout" to streamline online credit card payments, making it easier for customers to pay fees for services rendered.
Preserving history by providing text-searchable county Board of Commissioners minutes and resolutions online from 1924 to the present.
And creating online "how to" videos, explaining services offered via the Clerk's Office website and on the YouTube channel, including titles such as "Your day at the gun board," and "How to obtain a marriage license."