GOOD DEEDS: IT TECHNOLOGY REPORT A FLAWED PROCESS
By William P. O'Donnell – Norfolk Register of Deeds
The much-heralded by some individuals Abrahams Study was delivered to the Norfolk County Commissioners recently. This paid consultant who has been working on this study since September 2020 never studied ANY Registry of Deeds in Massachusetts or anywhere else. Mark Abrahams never visited the Norfolk Registry of Deeds yet he delivered a disastrous recommendation as it relates to the Registry operations and to all who rely and use Registry services. Mark Abrahams recommended that the on-site permanent Registry Chief Information Officer (CIO) be eliminated. Furthermore, Mr. Abrahams is also recommending that the on-site Registry IT Technology Department that for decades has worked with and for Registry staff, Registry users, Norfolk county municipalities and the general public also be eliminated from the Norfolk Registry of Deeds.
As Register of Deeds, I strongly believe I have a fiduciary and statutory duty to protect each and every document recorded by and on behalf of the residents of Norfolk County, especially those land records evidencing the fundamental and constitutional right of property ownership. In this digital age, access and protection of your land records are inextricably tied to a strong, secure and vigilantly maintained Registry IT Technology Infrastructure.
The Abrahams study concluded "We feel from a management perspective, the IT operations are being well run considering the limited staff." That sentence alone should end any consideration of the paid consultant Mark Abrahams' recommendation to eliminate the permanent on-site Registry CIO and Registry IT Technology Department. This essay will focus on some of the flaws in the process committed by Mark Abrahams as it relates to the Norfolk Registry of Deeds and its IT Technology Department.
One flagrant flaw is that Mark Abrahams nor anyone from his team came to visit the Norfolk Registry of Deeds as part of this study. There was a report in a local newspaper, that this paid consultant engaged and hired by the Norfolk County Commissioners since September of 2020 was paid $175,000.00. For that type of money I would expect some "due diligence" that would have included observing operations of the Norfolk Registry of Deeds. There was no such observation nor visit. What kind of consultant who recommends the total elimination of the on-site Registry IT Technology Department does not come by the Norfolk Registry of Deeds and the Registry IT Technology Department as part of that consultant's paid study?
Mark Abrahams was hired back in September 2020 so there was plenty of time to gather facts, visit the Norfolk Registry of Deeds and make certain assessments. Mark Abrahams never spoke with me prior to his recommendation not to fill the Registry CIO which was conveyed to and influenced county decision makers. I wrote a letter to Mark Abrahams on July 14, 2021 seeking to discuss at the time his recommendation not to fill the Registry CIO budgeted position even though he had not spoken to me about any Registry of Deeds operations. Also, in this letter is the following sentence. "This lack of communication, poor process and lack of insight into Registry operations make the decision not to fill the Registry CIO position more perplexing, troubling and frustrating." Nothing that has taken place since July of 2021 as to the process used by Mark Abrahams has changed since that sentence was written. I wrote still another letter dated July 29, 2021 to Mark Abrahams that again expressed my frustration with the flawed process and lack of transparency of the study by Mr. Abrahams that was taking place as it related to the Norfolk Registry of Deeds. Do you know when I got my next telephone call from Mark Abrahams? It was on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. less than 24 hours before Mr. Abrahams delivered his report on the Norfolk Registry of Deeds to the Norfolk County Commissioners on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.
The lack of transparency, flaws in process and mistaken methodology did not get better between the summer of 2021 and when the Abrahams study reports were recently delivered. I specifically wrote to Mr. Abrahams on September 20, 2021 pointing out once again the many operational reasons as well as concerns about cybersecurity risks of not having an on-site Registry CIO. I specifically asked for any reports, preliminary or otherwise, involving or affecting the Registry IT Department and/or the Registry CIO position. I am still waiting for Mark Abrahams to send me that report. Certainly, it would have been courteous and should be part of any process to have a copy of this report sent because it means so much to the Registry of Deeds and its users. This paid consultant and his team had never studied a Registry of Deeds in Massachusetts or anywhere else. To not visit the Norfolk Registry of Deeds since being hired in September of 2020 is inexcusable. The above flaws in this study are matched by Mr. Abrahams not specifically listing within his scope of analysis Massachusetts State Law M.G.L. Chapter 36. This is a failure of Mark Abrahams that should call into question his recommendations as it relates to the Norfolk Registry of Deeds and the Registry IT Technology Department. This state law deals with Registries of Deeds and the laws that govern their operations. This lack of familiarity and knowledge with recording law and Registry of Deeds operations by the paid consultant is due to a terrible process, lack of transparency, little or no communication and poor methodology on the part of the recommending consultant.
Most individuals who have dealt with the Norfolk Registry of Deeds would find it incredibly shortsighted for Mark Abrahams nor his team not to speak to former First Assistant Register of Deeds Richard Kennedy. This long time 36 year employee who graduated from Boston University Law School started working at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds in 1985 and retired during this study but still works part time at the Registry of Deeds today. His tenure as First Assistant Register of Deeds begin in 1991 long before I became Norfolk Register of Deeds. It is incredibly arrogant for the well paid consultant not to seek information, advice and perspectives on Registry operations especially when that consultant does not know anything about Registry operations.
The Norfolk Registry of Deeds has had 2 persons working on its IT infrastructure for 20 years. There has been a Registry IT Technical Assistance Administrator at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds for 11 years. Dan Caparrotta who is the Registry IT Technical Assistance Administrator and he was not spoken to by Mark Abrahams. Neither Mr. Abrahams nor his assistant spoke to Dan Caparrotta of the Registry IT Technology Department prior to making this reckless decision to "consolidate" which is code to eliminate the on-site Registry CIO position and the on-site Registry IT Technology Department that plays such a key role in delivering innovative and modern services to Registry users.
A faulty or flawed process leads to poor conclusions and outcomes. Mark Abrahams and his team as it relates to the Norfolk Registry of Deeds and the Registry IT Technology Department in the Abrahams study oversaw a flawed process. Out of this flawed process and poor methodology comes at best a sloppy report and at worst an unprofessional report as it relates to the Norfolk Registry of Deeds and the Registry IT Technology Department. The recommendations to eliminate the on-site CIO and eliminate the on-site Registry IT Technology Department will be an absolute disaster.
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 on-line petition linked here https://chng.it/YY9MvxNqcq . This IT recommendation should not be and cannot be implemented.