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08/31/95 ROCKFORD TITLE COMPANY v. KENNETH W. STAAF

August 31, 1995

ROCKFORD TITLE COMPANY, TITLE UNDERWRITERS AGENCY, INC., OF ROCKFORD, CHICAGO TITLE AGENCY OF ROCKFORD, INC., AND WINNEBAGO COUNTY TITLE COMPANY, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
KENNETH W. STAAF, IN HIS CAPACITY AS WINNEBAGO COUNTY RECORDER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 94-MR-68. Honorable Alford R. Penniman, Judge, Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Geiger delivered the opinion of the court: Bowman and Thomas, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Geiger

JUSTICE GEIGER delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Kenneth Staaf, the Winnebago County Recorder, appeals the judgment of the circuit court declaring that he has been guilty of malfeasance in office and "shall be liable to any party injured *** for all damages occasioned thereby." Defendant contends that in so holding the court misconstrued the relevant statute.

Plaintiffs, Rockford Title Company; Title Underwriters Agency, Incorporated, of Rockford; Chicago Title Agency of Rockford, Incorporated; and Winnebago County Title Company, are title insurers doing business in Winnebago County. Plaintiffs filed a two-count complaint against defendant and the County of Winnebago seeking mandamus and declaratory relief. Plaintiffs subsequently added count III seeking additional declaratory relief and dismissed the county as a defendant.

Counts I and III were resolved by agreed orders and are not involved in this appeal. In the order resolving count I, the parties stipulated that defendant had engaged in the following practices:

"(a). Has refused to accept for recordation, and/or has returned without recording, instruments tendered for recordation because of purported 'errors' in such instruments apart from those instruments which he is precluded from accepting for recordation ***.

(b). Has not, upon receipt of instruments tendered for filing and recordation, immediately entered into the entry book the names of the parties, the date and time the instrument was received and a brief description of the premises.

(c). Has not endorsed upon instruments tendered for filing and recordation a number which corresponds to a number in the entry book.

(d). Has installed a computerized system which has the capability to permit the automated entry and indexing, alphabetically by document, of all instruments filed in his office and discontinued the use of the manual system without utilizing both the computerized and manual systems for a period of at least six (6) months.

(e). Has not made available for inspection and copying documents which had been presented and accepted for recording, but which had not yet been recorded."

Plaintiffs later moved for summary judgment on count II. The court granted the motion and entered an order referencing the previous mandamus order and setting forth additional duties which defendant violated. The order provides:

"Because of the violations of his statutory duties as set forth above, the Defendant Kenneth W. Staaf is guilty of malfeasance in office, and the Defendant Kenneth W. Staaf shall be liable to any party injured by such violation of his ...


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