Towns shortchanged by county mortgage system, Bello says

Mar 14, 2019

Monroe County Clerk and County Executive Candidate Adam Bello
Credit James Brown WXXI

A faulty electronic mortgage system cost towns and villages across Monroe County hundreds of thousands of tax dollars over the last three years, according to County Clerk Adam Bello.

The Democrat said the problem started in December 2015, when Republican County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo piloted the system in her final year as county clerk.

Bello, who is running against Dinolfo for county executive this year, said the program’s installation was rushed.

“In their haste to roll out a new electronic recording system, the previous administration created a system that by its very nature is recording mistakes,” said Bello. “If the checks and balances procedure for recording mortgages in person were in place for the electronic system, this problem would have never happened.”

Bello said the system had a design flaw that routed tax money to the city of Rochester instead of the rest of the county. Bello said his office had no idea until the city contacted the clerk about an abnormally large payment last month. He said this caused his office to investigate the matter. Bello says normal diagnositic tests didn't find the issue. 

“This should have been apparent to those who designed the system,” said Bello. “But could not be known to anyone else, including the clerks, because the system’s design essentially hid the problem.

Jesse Sleezer, the spokesman for the county executive, said the error is on Bello. He also accused Bello of making a political point on the taxpayer’s dime.

“He refuses to take responsibility for the fact that these hundreds of thousands of dollars in misappropriations occurred on his watch,” Sleezer said. “Now he’s blaming his opponent in a political campaign, which calls into question whether it’s an appropriate use of taxpayer resources.

“All of the mistakes in these missed collections occurred from 2016 through present. 2016 is a key date because the county clerk had been clerk since 2016,” Sleezer added. “The system was piloted in 2015, but we do not know if there was a mistake in the system. We do know that mistakes were made from 2016 forward, and County Clerk Bello has been in office for the last three and a half years.”

Bello said his office contacted all the affected towns and villages on Thursday, and they are working on redirecting the money to them. Greece, Henrietta and Penfield will likely receive totals in the low six figures. Several municipalities, including Wheatland, Webster, Pittsford, Perinton, Riga, Sweden, Mendon, Parma, Ogden, and Clarkson, are still having their totals tabulated.