Every year since taking office Recorder of Deeds Karen A. Yarbrough has released an Annual Report. This document lays out what has been accomplished, and focuses the office on tasks that lie ahead. The theme for 2016 is “A Government that Innovates.” This is in relation to the industry-leading reforms we are pushing, like stronger property fraud laws, better data portals, and blockchain technology for land records.

Read the report below. Also included is the full-text of Recorder Yarbrough’s introductory letter.

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Dear Taxpayer:

The year 2016 marks the end of my first full term as Recorder of Deeds, and unfortunately for the Office of Recorder of Deeds, this next term will be its last. Voters in the 2016 Election chose to merge CCRD with the Cook County Clerk’s Office. Though I disagreed with the idea based on the lack of an official study and the risks it posed to the great work we’ve done, I nonetheless respect the decision of the voters and will work to make the transition effective.

The theme of 2016’s Annual Report is “A Government that Innovates.” It is a challenge for an understaffed and underfunded government agency to maintain basic services, let alone lead the charge for innovative new ways of doing business. Though CCRD has faced fiscal pressures ever since the housing bubble popped in the 2000s, the leaders I have empowered in my administration have brought this office into the modern era, and are even leading the national conversation on new technology that can make our duties even more efficient.

Innovation, for our office, means doing more with less. The attention we have paid to analyzing every facet of our operations has allowed us to be perhaps the most fiscally-responsible office in Cook County. We remain proud to bring in a large amount of revenue for the County while only needing a small workforce to do so. In fact, the County Board indicated that it was the great work we did in our first term that made them believe that the time was right to further streamline government in Cook County through the merger. We are regularly recognized as setting the standard in Cook County for fiscal reform.

Our first term brought many unique and innovative reforms. We created a unique and expedited judicial process to quickly invalidate clearly fraudulent recordings filed against innocent victims. This process has saved over 100 homes so far. We put in extensive development work to allow our records management software to handle the high volume of documents we receive each day, work that has allowed us to expand our electronic-recording operation to accept all documents. Today we process over 40% of our submissions electronically and without paper, and look forward to seeing that number climb each year going forward.

As always, our public outreach efforts have adapted to meet a demand we discovered: people want and need affordable estate planning options. Our “Property After Death” program has shown thousands of residents how they can avoid costly Probate Court by simply filing a $50 document in our office.

Our Statement of Purpose has always been “Accuracy-Efficiency-Advocacy” and I can say without hesitation that we have made good on this promise. As we enter CCRD’s last 4 years as a separately-elected office, I look forward to guiding us into its next chapter.

In Service,

Karen A. Yarbrough