Privacy advocate B.J. Ostergren, who keeps a close eye on clerks of court throughout the state, has caught Charlottesville Clerk of Court Paul Garrett in what might most nicely be described as a lie, but I suspect it’s something closer to fraud. As Liesel Nowak reports in today’s Progress, Garrett had certified to the state on three occasions that he’d made land records available online when, in fact, he’d done no such thing. He’d also claimed that his office now had a website when, in fact, the domain charlottesvillevaccoc.org has been registered, but doesn’t even point to a website. On the strength of those claims, the State Compensation Board had provided Garrett with $21,600 and set aside another $30,860 for the project, but they’ve now withdrawn that funding. A spokesman for the city says that, in fact, the city is in the midst of the bidding process, considering three vendors for the project.
Garrett is a well-known and well-liked local Democrat who was most recently reelected in 2003, securing the nomination over challenger Vanessa Hicks, who promised to get the court’s records available online if elected.
As stunning as it is that Garrett would tell such a bald-faced lie to the Compensation Board, it does not speak well of the Compensation Board that they would not so much as click on his website URL to check whether or not it actually exists, or check on his claim that his office was providing remote access to land records.