I proudly serve as the third elected Clerk and Recorder for the City and County of Denver. Unprecedented media focus on the 2020 General Election brought national, and even international, media attention to our office’s election processes. But what many may not realize are the other ways in which the Office of the Clerk and Recorder serves Denver residents, and how we innovated and expanded our services in 2020 to meet the needs of Denverites. The challenges met by my agency in the midst of a global health pandemic have forged a resilient, nimble office that I’m proud to lead into the next phase of service for our residents.
Our Office’s Vision: Innovation, Service, and Integrity
My focus since coming into the office has been to ensure that Denverites have access to the critical records we are entrusted to keep; to provide information for residents facing foreclosure; to ensure all Denver residents can vote safely and securely (we’ll focus on this topic in a later op-ed); and to build a common and shared agency identity which connects with our residents.
Records Management and Recording Touches All Denverites
Our office keeps a broad range of records, from city records like contracts and city council documents to historical archives from Denver’s earliest days. We also record documents for individuals, including land records and marriage licenses. These records document our residents’ lives.
My elected predecessors improved our records practices, removing records from damp basement corners of the City and County Building, indexing those records, and implementing technological improvements like a queuing system and enhanced online records lookup. In 2019, my office made more than 11 million records available online with real estate records now searchable back to 1950 and marriage records searchable back to 1903.
When I took office, I identified records management as an area for improvement. We proactively invited Auditor O’Brien’s office to give us an unbiased, third-party review of the procedures I inherited. Additionally, we proposed a partnership with the auditor to report about current practices and how to improve them.
One of the gaps this partnership revealed was a long-standing vacancy in our City Clerk position. We organized and strengthened the City Clerk team, hired a new City Clerk with a background in recordkeeping and added a team member dedicated to campaign finance.
Through an increase in eRecording and the installation of our dedicated drop box, our office recorded more than 215,000 documents in 2020. We processed nearly 59,000 releases of deeds of trust- the most in any year since 2004. Despite increased volume during the pandemic, our office experienced no backlogs in recording services.
Early in the pandemic, we developed a mail and dropbox marriage license process and appointment-based system to continue to meet the needs of our residents. We later piloted a virtual marriage licensing process. We issued more than 5,500 marriage licenses in 2020.
Before the pandemic, we dropped our wait and transaction times by instituting a variety of efficiencies. We continued to be nimble as we moved from our usual in-person business practices to an online service delivery model for our customers.
We’re now open for scheduled in-person appointments and I am proud that we were able to provide continuity of service to our residents, while generating $2.3 million dollars in revenue for the city coffers during this economic downturn. That’s up 26% from 2019.
Resources & Engagement for Residents Facing Possible Foreclosure
The Office of the Denver Clerk and Recorder is unique; while we don’t handle motor vehicle responsibilities like other Clerks across the state, we are the only Clerk’s office that serves as the Public Trustee. As Public Trustee, we administer foreclosures for the City of Denver, in compliance with State Law.
In my 12 years as a Councilmember representing Denver’s westside neighborhoods, I saw first-hand the devastation and displacement that foreclosure can bring. That’s why I wanted to ensure that our residents had the resources and information they need to make sound decisions about what is often their biggest asset: their homes.
We partnered with the Denver Office of Financial Empowerment and Protection and Denver Housing Authority to offer a series of virtual townhalls, with the goal of informing Denver homeowners of their rights and ensuring access to resources in case we see a spike in foreclosures after the moratoria on federally-backed mortgages expires.
We have a new team in place dedicated to community engagement, ensuring that Denver’s residents have awareness of, and access to, our services, regardless of zip code, education or language spoken.
The Office of the Clerk and Recorder is here for you.
Paul Lopez is the Clerk and Recorder for the City and County of Denver