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Maghan wants to archive records

March 05, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Special to The Herald-Mail

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan and county commissioners were at it again Thursday morning, this time over Maghan's insistence that she, not them, is solely responsible for the safe keeping of commissioner records.

The flap ended when the commissioners, on a unanimous vote, cut Maghan off from further debate. 

"God bless you," she told the five members over her shoulder as she left the meeting room.

The commissioners sat stoically as Maghan read through 10 pages of prepared notes supporting her argument on the importance of safeguarding county records. At one point, Commissioner Frances Morgan left the chamber for about 10 minutes.

Citing West Virginia law, Maghan claimed sole authority over county commission records. Such documents would include contracts, meeting minutes and the like, "anything that crosses their bench," Maghan said. Her plan is to go back about 20 years as a starting point.

Jefferson County has official courthouse records dating to 1801, the year it broke from Berkeley County and became its own jurisdiction.

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Citing the law, she said she wants to archive for safe keeping "all records of continuing and enduring value to the citizens of the state and necessary to the administrative functions of counties and municipalities..."

Maghan referred to the August 2006 fire that destroyed the Morgan County (W.Va.) Courthouse as an example of why public records should be archived.

The county has boxes of old records stored in basements of buildings anywhere there's room, she said.

The commissioners said it would take an army of employees to gather them and take them to Maghan's first floor office in the courthouse. "There would be boxes all over the hall," Commission President Dale Manuel said.

They would have to be scanned in order to be archived. Once that's done, the originals could be stored anywhere. At one point, Maghan suggested an old salt mine in Pennsylvania as a possible depository.

The commissioners said some records are stored in the office of County Administrator Leslie Smith. Some of those are too sensitive to be turned over, Manuel said, and the commission's attorney would have to check them first.

The commissioners will hammer out what records would be given to Maghan, he said.

Documents such as deeds, birth, death and marriage records are automatically archived, according to Commissioner Jim Surkamp.

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