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Security for your private records questionable in county courthouse

web posted October 20, 2008
OPINION – There have been many incidents that raised the specter that the Edgefield County Council has their priorities out of whack for quite some time. Placing the county recreation as a millage rate securing almost a half a million dollars that largely goes unaccounted for each year while ignoring basic services such as additional law enforcement officers, EMS, and the expansion of infrastructure such as the extension of water lines to name a few.  However, a simple vandalism at the Edgefield County Courthouse Sunday has revealed that our most vital records are left unprotected as a result of a lack of funding due to the priorities of the county council.

Clerk of Court Shirley Newby, who is elected to oversee the courthouse, said Sunday that she has been fighting for courthouse security since she was elected four years ago. The County Council had to be forced into mandatory security officers and a metal detector to be placed at a single point of entry this year, a year later than mandated by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Even then the county council tried to delay the implementation of the officers after facing a possible budget crunch brought on by rising fuel prices. Newby prevailed in that scenario, however; the county residents have been failed for years with the discovery that there is no alarm system installed at the courthouse. “There is not a window or door protected by an alarm,” Clerk of Court Newby said.

That is not very reassuring to residents in regard to the building that contains the most vital records of the county’s citizens most personal information.

Contained within the courthouse are voter registration information, tax information, personal information including names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, mental health records, Probate Court records, and a host of other vital records that could expose the entire county to identity theft if accessed. However, a new scoreboard or fence at Bettis Park is a priority, installing a simple alarm system for our county records is not.

It has also been discovered that the county has continually failed to provide the county computer systems with proper security software to prevent viruses and intrusions.

While county election officials are scrambling to assure the public that our election office is secure due to a vandalism Saturday night at the Voter Registration Office, our county leaders place not only the sanctity of our election process in harms way, they also place our identities at risk while making sure almost unlimited funds are directed towards Bettis Park to assure the re-election of one of their own.

Perhaps that is why two county council seats have already been overturned this year during the primaries and a third remains in the balance in the November election.

The county recreation program has consumed millions of dollars that could have gone towards county needs, not wants. Protecting our courthouse and vital records is not a want; it is a demanded need and has been overlooked by our county elected leaders for far too long.

Yet, due to the lack of foresight of the county council the much needed, and obviously now demanded, alarm system for the courthouse will force another department’s budget to be cut to supply the funds. Every department but one – recreation. It is protected, unlike your vital records and personal information.

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