The flap between the county and Cross Timbers Title Co. is apparently over.
Instead of continuing to pursue digital images of county records that county officials say the company owes and the company says it doesn’t, Erath County commissioners moved Monday toward striking a deal with another title company.
Lawyers Abstract & Title Co. says it has developed - at “considerable expense” - and owns a digital copy of the “real records” of Erath County.
In a letter from Ben Cornish, general manager and co-owner of Lawyers Abstract & Title Co., to county commissioners, Cornish said the title company’s Board of Directors believes a digital copy of the “real records” of Erath County would be beneficial to County Clerk Gwinda Jones.
“It represents a fast and economical way to counter the ever-increasing cost of providing copies of individual documents to the public,” Cornish said.
“Because we believe such records in digital form are an intellectual property, we propose to enter into a licensing agreement that safeguards the value of the intellectual property while making it available for immediate use by the Clerk’s Office in serving the demands of the public,” Cornish said in the letter.
Cornish, who attended Monday’s meeting, proposed that the Commissioners Court appoint a committee to work with a committee from Lawyers Abstract to develop “a licensing agreement for the mutual benefit and protection of the respective interest of the parties in sharing the digital form of these records.”
In response, commissioners appointed a committee Monday of Jones, County Attorney Carey Fraser, County Auditor James Young and Erath County Commissioner Lynn Tidwell.
“I look forward to entering into discussions with you,” County Judge Tab Thompson told Cornish, calling it a “very generous offer.”
After the meeting, Cornish said Lawyers Abstract looks forward to working with the county clerk, county commissioners and the committee.
“Our intent is to assist the County Clerk in obtaining digital images of the real property records and ultimately saving the taxpayers money,” Cornish said.
Cornish said Lawyers Abstract paid more than $130,000 to produce microfilm for the project, and that cost didn’t even include the employee time it took to scan the hard copies of county documents.
Meanwhile, Thompson said it’s unfortunate that the situation got to the point where the county was at odds with Cross Timbers Title Co.
Citing an alleged promise from Cross Timbers Title and a letter, the county contended Cross Timbers Title Co. should have given the county a copy of the digital images the company produced using county records.
Cross Timbers Title, on the other hand, contended the county never signed a contract sent to them and the letter the county based its claim on was taken out of context.
On Monday, Thompson reiterated that the county did everything it was supposed to do regarding a verbal agreement it had made with Cross Timbers Title Co. and that the company just wasn’t willing to live up to its end of the bargain.
Before announcing its potential agreement with Lawyers Abstract, Thompson recommended that the county “cease any discussion” with Cross Timbers Title Co. because “obviously the good faith agreement is not going to be fulfilled.”
“I don’t believe we should waste any more of the county’s time,” Thompson said.
No representative of Cross Timbers Title Co. addressed county commissioners on the issue Monday.
DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.