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Bay County in Michigan offers online ordering of certificates

LaptopA new online service will be offered by the Bay County Clerk’s office in Michigan starting January 1, 2015. The service, which was designed to add convenience, will allow residents to order birth, death, and marriage certificates online.

The Bay County Board of Commissioners approved the ruling on September 16, which will allow people to make online purchases through Vital Chek, a third party vendor. Vital Chek authenticates identity and then allows the certificates to be sent. The vendor currently works with 450 records offices across the United States, including nearly 30 Michigan county offices and the State of Michigan’s records office.

Cynthia Luczak, Bay County Clerk said it won’t cost the county a dime to acquire the processing technology. Vital Chek will charge a $10 processing fee to purchase the records online. This is in addition to the $14 fee the county charges for processing certified copies. An additional $3 is charged for more than one copy. If overnight mailing is required, it will cost $20. Of course, all of these prices are subject to change with changes in inflation, market rates, etc.

Luczak said that, overall, one will likely pay around $50 for a birth certificate and a copy to be sent overnight. She said although the cost may be a bit high, in the long run it could be worth it for many people. For example it could be needed for a job requirement or for health insurance.

The Bay County office often receives requests for birth certificates and other documents from people out of state. At the moment, to receive these vital records a written request must be sent to the office with a check or cash included. The person then must wait for processing to receive the requested records. Online orders and processing will significantly decrease the amount of time spent on these requests.

Bay County has made the process of requesting vital documents online as painless as possible, they say. After January 1, users may go to the county website at and click on the Vital Chek icon. Users will then need to put in their personal information along with payment information and select the vital records requested. Vital Check will then verify identity and process the information for the clerk’s office. All documents would then be sent out within 24 hours.

Diana Bosworth, Eaton County Clerk said Lansing, Michigan has used the processing system for several years. She said Vital Chek has worked well for residents and those that need to order documents from out of state. Bosworth said the number of times a transaction has not gone through has been minimal. On average, the office receives around two to three requests per week. If an identity cannot be verified online, those requesting the information will have to request the desired documents through mail.

Luczak will be working closely with Vital Check after the November election. She wants to make sure the system will run as smoothly as possible when it is open to the general public on January 1st. She anticipates many requests the first week, as it will be the first time constituents will have ever had access to the convenient technology.

California Census data is flawed according to Bay Area police

PoliceCensus data compiled in the Bay Area shows local police departments need more diversity if it wants to reflect its current population. While many area departments acknowledge diversity is very important, they do concede that an overwhelming number of officers are white.

At the same time, officials say the census data is not completely accurate in its findings. In the 2010 Bureau report, it estimated that the departments of Brentwood, Walnut Creek, Daly City, Antioch, and Novato were 100 percent white. However, they say this is not the case. [Read more...]

Ohio Democrats file public records suit in Ohio Supreme Court

GavelThursday afternoon, the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court to press Ohio Governor, John Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor to release public records.

The records in question are written communication between employees who resigned from Taylor’s office earlier in the year. [Read more...]

Pennsylvania counties could save big with electronic storage

Data CenterA new law could save counties in Pennsylvania thousands of dollars by storing court records electronically. This law would help modernize storage and save money by limiting the process and storage of paper copies and microfilm.

State Senator Matt Smith said it will save the state a significant amount of tax dollars. It is estimated that Allegheny County alone could see a saving of $230,000 annually in storage costs. [Read more...]

Florida court restricts physician speech on gun ownership

HandgunA Florida appeals court stated on Friday that it is constitutional to restrict what a physician can tell its patients about gun ownership. The court said regulating professional conduct does not violate freedom of speech rights under the First Amendment.

Physicians caught breaking this law could be fined and lose their medical licenses.

The Florida appeals court upheld the law by a 2-1 decision as a protection of patient privacy rights. It said any limits imposed by it were incidental. [Read more...]

Records request consumes months of government resources

StressPublic records are designed to keep government agencies accountable for their actions and also to help individuals find information they need in the pursuit of personal, legal, and business pursuits. In theory, public records are the epitome of transparent government. In practice, public records do indeed serve this purpose, but the reality of carrying out a request can be much more daunting than one might initially think.

In December of 2013, for example, Port Orchard, Washington resident Randy Jones filed a public records requests asking for email correspondence details between a few very specific groups and [Read more...]

Massachusetts Governor vetoes MBTA retirement fund exemption

DeniedOn Friday, July 11, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed that state’s final 2015 budget. As part of his overall review and budget approval, the Governor chose to veto a provision that suggested the state’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) retirement fund be exempted from the state’s existing public records laws. His position was that his desire is to see greater transparency in government, and that this exemption would be a step in the wrong direction. [Read more...]

Bay County Appraiser warns residents about property assessment scam

MoneyThere is currently a mail solicitation circulating around the Bay County area from a company calling itself the “Record Transfer Services.” The company offers individuals a copy of their property assessment profile and a copy of the deed to their property for a fee of $83.

When news of this company reached Dan Sowell, Bay County Property Appraiser, he immediately posted a notice on his website to urge the public to save their money, and not fall for this scam because the information is readily available on his site at no cost to the inquirer. Sowell illustrated that on the bottom of the company’s solicitation, it reads that the information they’re providing is online. [Read more...]