News for Public Officials and the People They Serve

Opinion Editorial

Down the River with Darwin Deason

Janice Forster -



Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS) founder Darwin Deason is at it again and if you're the honorable Average Joe who thinks this news must have nothing to do with you or your life, think again.

Billionaire Deason amassed his fortune by selling you down the river; from the organization and trade of personal information. Your information. Medical records, land records, health records, any records. If it affects your life, he has it. Why does this bother me and why should you care? Because it includes your land records and every bit of personal information they contain. And maybe especially because Deason couldn't have bought that information if your local register of deeds or clerk of court hadn't facilitated the sale.

Since attracting the attention of federal prosecutors recently in a stock option scandal, we can only hope Deason will experience a little discomfort at having his personal papers scrutinized by strangers, something he's spent a career and subjected the rest of America to for years.

Deason isn't the only questionable character in this story. How about the local folks who pleaded for your vote last election with promises of safeguarding your personal records? Don't they deserve at least a phone call or visit next trip into town to ask what the heck they were thinking by selling your signature, social security number, and home address?

News for Public Officials editor, David Bloys, tells of more than one example of elected officials receiving gifts of cash, and other perks in exchange for selling your records in bulk or placing them online.



Fort Bend County Clerk Dianne Wilson has been imaging county records for more than 10 years and openly admits to regularly selling her citizens' records. One transaction of approximately 15 to 20 million records was sold to a company called Red Vision for just $2,000. Paper copies of those same documents would cost $1 a page, and still costs $1 a page to the local citizen who walks in off the street.

Bloys said Wilson is infamous nationwide for her Internet posting of public documents and even more so for the bulk sale of those documents, including documents with sensitive data to companies that, in turn, realize huge profits by selling the records to anyone who asks. As early as March 2005, showed Wilson's website at the top of their Meet the Stalkers list.

Wilson said she has no apologies for her decision to make the records available, and said medical data is not made public through her office. But when told about medical information of a family member of hers obtained through the county clerk's Web site, she had no response.

Clark (Las Vegas, NV) County Recorder, Frances Deane sold over 30 years worth of real estate documents for thousands of dollars and used the cash to pay her bills and purchase a plasma television, according to her arrest warrant. Deane was charged with 19 felony counts that include misconduct of a public officer, fraudulent appropriation of property, theft and unlawful commissions, personal profit and compensation of public officers.

Deane pocketed at least $44,000 from the sales of county-owned documents and never reported an additional $10,000 in campaign contributions. According to Las Vegas title agents, title companies pay $1.5 million to gain access to the amount of information Deane sold.

And former Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Clerk, Lynn Presley has recently been released from prison after completing 84 months of his 10-year prison sentence for embezzling county funds in the late 1990s. According to federal prosecutors, Presley was the recipient of a kickback, valued at $60,000, in exchange for providing the county's former chief land appraiser a contract with Florida-based Mainline Corporation. The contract was to digitize and place county land records on a database.

A handful of states in the past year have released cryptic redaction forms that citizens must complete on their own listing information they want redacted, but they must also list the document source and where, within the body of the document, that sensitive information can be located. There is no time frame for redacting this information and few people are even aware of the ability to do so. When asked how many citizens had requested to redact their personal information from documents in Cabarrus County, NC, Register of Deeds Linda McAbee smiled and answered, "Besides me? One."

What does all of this have to do with Darwin Deason? There aren't any sellers if nobody's buying, and Deason has deep pockets.

Legend has it Deason's farmer father gave him $50 at high school graduation and Deason immediately used it to set out and make his way in the world. In light that $50 investment, he would have attained a more honorable legacy to have stayed on the farm and viewed the world from the back side of a mule.


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