As registers of deeds from across our state gathered in Boone for our 59th Annual Conference, I was extremely disappointed to see the Sept. 10 article "Registers' perks are public expense" and the editorial that followed. I was disappointed not by the scrutiny that our organization received, which I think is healthy for any public organization, but by the story's distortions and half-truths.
Our registers, with very few exceptions, operate their offices in the most cost-effective, efficient way possible with great respect for the trust placed in them by the citizens of their county. Our conferences have been described as "party affairs" in your paper. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our annual conference begins over a weekend to reduce the amount of time out of the office. On Sunday morning of our conference, we do have a golf tournament. However, this does not take away from conference business as Sunday mornings are set aside for those who want to attend church services or otherwise spend the time, before committee meetings begin in the afternoon. Those who do choose to play golf pay their own way. No associational funds or county money are expended on golf.
Our conferences are full of educational sessions and reports from state departments that interact with our offices. As for "seeing the sights," the only off-site event was a cookout at the Valle Crucis Community Park, a small not-for-profit park located 15 minutes away from our conference hotel on Monday evening, after normal business hours. The band that played following our installation banquet on Tuesday night was paid for by private sponsors, not with public money and occurred after business hours as well. Vendors do sponsor banquets at our conferences but that is allowed under state ethics laws.
Other issues raised in the article include the scholarships that are given annually by the association. While only one-third of our operating budget comes from dues paid directly by counties, to erase any doubt that these grants are not funded through public sources, our conference delegates voted to raise the money needed to fund our scholarship program through private, non-vendor fundraising. Additionally, we opened our scholarship program to the families of employees in Registers of Deeds offices.
Our association does employ the services of an executive director and lobbyist, as was reported. We pay the director only for the services she provides, as her company also works with many other statewide professional associations. We save money by sharing those services. This year our lobbyist tracked 36 bills filed in the General Assembly that impacted our offices. It is impossible for our registers who live outside of Wake County to be at the General Assembly to attend committee meetings and monitor the progress of each of these bills while also managing their individual offices.
I was honored to be sworn in as president and can assure you that under my watch our association will constantly look at its structure to find better and more cost-effective methods to conduct our business. But rest assured, our state's registers and our association are nothing like you described.
Wayne L. Rash
President, N.C. Association of Registers of Deeds
The length limit on letters was waived to permit a fuller response.