SWEETWATER COUNTY– During the Sweetwater County Commissioner meeting on Tuesday, the board heard a presentation on the iDoc Market, which allows people to view public records online.
Cindy Lane, Sweetwater County Clerk, Tim Knight, County IT Director, and John DeLeon, County Deputy Attorney, gave the presentation in which they shared information about the program.
The iDoc Market has become the center of controversy among local realtors and business owners, as the implementation of the program brought along some fees.
Those subscription fees include a $10 daily fee, $50 weekly, $150 monthly or $1,500 yearly for private or business use.
The issue became a legal one when some local realtors and business owners consulted legal counsel about whether the implementation of the program and fees followed a legal process or not.
During the presentation, DeLeon said that the county’s position is that the process was not illegal as the issue does not deal with public records but rather a program that allows more convenient access of public records.
Knight explained that the county has used three products to allow the digitization of public records, which includes Docupro, iDoc 4.5, and iDoc Market.
Breakdown of the Three Products
Starting with the Docupro program in 2011, which is still used today. This program is where the public records and documents are stored online.
People may view documents using Docupro for free at the courthouse. If they want copies, they must pay a printing fee. This is the program that deals with public records directly.
The cost to purchase the Docupro software was $238,789. The annual support cost is $51,485.
In 2011, the county also implemented the program, iDoc 4.5. This software allowed the public to view records from their home or office. The cost to purchase the software was $8,415, and the annual support cost was $2,263.
However, the program is outdated and no longer secure, as it requires the use of Internet Explorer, so the county had to update the program.
That’s where the iDoc Market comes in. In August 2019, the county entered an agreement to upgrade to the iDoc Market, which is essentially the same program as iDoc 4.5. However, rather than a software that the county manages and hosts, iDoc Market is a cloud service from Tyler Technology.
This means Tyler Technology hosts and manages the service, and the county just provides data uploads every couple of hours.
The upgrade costed $5,455, which includes the implementation costs, application support, and hosting services. The annual subscription cost will be $3,355.
The other difference between iDoc 4.5 and iDoc Market is the implementation of user fees.
When asked by Commissioner Roy Lloyd whether or not other options for this service were considered, Knight said this made the most sense.
“The real question is do we do this or not? Because you can do iDoc market and make it a public service, or we don’t have to and we can keep it internal,” Knight said.
Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld asked what other counties in the state are doing in terms of access to public records. Knight said while some are using iDoc Market, others have records digitized but do not offer access to them through an online program, and some counties haven’t even digitized documents.
Issue of Legality
DeLeon said a formal complaint regarding the implementation of iDoc Market was filed to the state’s ombudsman, but the county is yet to receive a public record finding against Lane.
Some people have said the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act was violated by Lane when no notice was given prior to the change in fees.
However, DeLeon said the county’s position is that they are not dealing with public records, and therefore the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act is non-applicable.
He cited three reasons, which they presented to the ombudsman, that explain why they are not dealing with public records. The reasons are as follows:
- In order to be a public record, it has to be in the possession of the County Clerk. The public records at the courthouse are hosted internally using Docupro, but the public records on iDoc Market are hosted by Tyler Technology. These are two different programs.
- Fees as far as iDoc Market is concerned, is not in furtherance of a public function. Tyler Technology is a private business, and though the service provides an important function, the county is not required by statute to provide the service.
- It’s not a necessary project. It is a project that Lane took on, but it is not a project that was required by law. It is not mandatory to provide a service to allow access to public records remotely.
DeLeon told the commission that Lane has proceeded under legal counsel to ensure her implementation of this program has been legal.
Implementation of Fees
Complaints were made regarding the fees to access the documents using iDoc Market, some people even saying Lane did not follow proper procedure when implementing these.
The Commission was not consulted when setting the fees, however, DeLeon said that they did not have to approve the fees as it is not a state mandated service.
“Cindy did not legally have to take on the project,” DeLeon said.
Therefore, the board can offer advice, feedback, and recommendations, but unless they decide to take on the project independently, they do not have authority over the service.
Lane said she looked at what other counties charge for this service or similar services, and also considered how many years are on file to determine the fees. She said she tried to pick a middle of the road cost.
Tyler Technology charges the county to provide the service, but Lane was given the authority to set the fees. However, contractually, Tyler Technology can change the fees if they would like.
Lane explained that the fees are also being used to try to recapture the expenditures the county is putting forth for both Docupro and iDoc Market.
Commissioner Wally Johnson expressed his concern over having Sweetwater County residents and business owners foot the bill for this service.
“We work for the public, the public puts us in these chairs, and I would say the same thing for the Clerk’s Office. Their sole function is to take care of the needs of the public, and this is one of them,” Johnson said.
He added that this service allows a better way of accessing public records, and that they could go back to using paper, but that wouldn’t be best for the public.
“Our responsibility is to do what’s in the best interest of the public, and I think we’re losing sight of that fact on this very issue,” Johnson said.
Johnson believes Sweetwater County residents should not have to pay a fee for the service. He said if it a service is important enough, they should be willing to expend taxpayer dollars to do that.
Lane said the fees were implemented to help reduce the cost of the service for all of the taxpayers, as the service is not mandated by law and is not used by everyone.
“It is my responsibility as an elected official to do what’s best for all my constituents,” Lane said.
She said to validate the importance of this “nonobligatory system”, she believes users should show their “willingness to show that this program is important enough for them to have some personal buy in.”
Schoenfeld said a number of constituents have expressed to her their aversion to paying for a service they’ll never use.
“We need to take a step back and look at what the majority of our citizens needs are and what we really are looking at taxpayers money for,” Schoenfeld said. “Digitizing the documents is one thing, but providing the service to a very select group of individuals who are already getting paid fees in their processes is something we really need to take a look at.”
The commissioners will revisit this issue at their next meeting and come up with recommendations with how to proceed.