It’s a pure cryin’ shame the S.C. General Assembly couldn’t get it together enough last week to pass S.C. Sen. Chip Campsen’s bill to rein in poorly-performing elected registers of deeds like Michael Miller in Charleston.
Miller, a Democrat, is up for re-election this year and has a June primary against Karen Hollings. We strongly encourage voters to kick Miller out of office. If they don’t vote him out next month, they’ll have another chance in the November general election against Republican Bob McIntyre. One way or another, Miller needs to become an ex-register of deeds this year.
Miller, elected in 2018 to a public service job that pays almost $127,000 a year, has proven time and again that he’s not qualified to manage the basic work of the office — the filing of real estate documents in a timely manner. Send him back to his West Ashley barbershop where he apparently spends weekends working while deeds employees have struggled to nix the crushing backlog that developed under Miller’s inept watch.
For months, real estate professionals and lawyers have been complaining about how Miller has been slack in running the once-efficient department that became plagued with long delays of filing real estate transactions in the hot Charleston market. In late November, a lawsuit sought a court to monitor the office and to get Miller’s office back on track. In December, a whistleblower filed a lawsuit saying she was fired for complaining to Miller about how his office was not doing its job properly.
By February, a state circuit judge ordered Miller to get the office’s work done, including having the staff working longer and through weekends to eliminate backlogs. The order also included pointers to hire experienced, temporary staff from neighboring counties to help reduce the paperwork juggernaut.
Also in February, Campsen filed a bill (S. 1031) to require minimum qualifications for elected registers of deeds, which included having a college degree or four years of experience in law, real estate, accounting, as a register of deeds or an employee in a deeds office. The proposal also included a stipulation making a person ineligible for holding the job if he or she had a pattern of failing to do the job. The bill passed the Senate and House separately, but lawmakers didn’t agree on a final version — to the great detriment of Charleston County.
Another possibility to change the office is for the job to become appointed, rather than elected. Only six registers of deeds in the state are elected. County council has said it doesn’t have the authority to appoint the position,
but the county’s legislative delegation apparently does.
One way or another, things need to change. The quickest way for change is to elect someone else with experience to the position.
In a political meeting this month, Miller said the backlog had been eliminated. But he also admitted,
“I’m not there on Saturday.” Let’s make that permanent.
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