County restricts use of records; Ordinance won’t affect information used by landlords

An ordinance that restricts the use of public records for commercial solicitation purposes has been approved by the St. Joseph County Council. The measure passed easily, but not until after assuring landlords’ access to county records to identify prospective tenants with criminal records.

 

County restricts use of public records;
Ordinance won’t affect information used by landlords

By James Wensits
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND (April 17, 2004) — An ordinance that restricts the use of public records for commercial solicitation purposes has been approved by the St. Joseph County Council.

The measure passed easily, but not until after a Credit Bureau of South Bend representative was assured that the ordinance would not limit his ability to access county records and pass information on to property managers and landlords who rely on his service to identify prospective tenants who have criminal records.

In other action this week, the council unanimously adopted resolutions approving the long-awaited land use plan for the Capital Avenue corridor and agreeing to a study that is to determine handicapped accessibility to polling places.

Credit Bureau spokesman Mark Kline told the council that property managers and landlords use a data service provided by the Credit Bureau to determine whether prospective renters have criminal records or are listed as sex offenders.

Kline submitted letters from a few property managers who expressed concern that the ordinance would keep them from screening potential residents.

Kline was assured that the ordinance is intended to block use of mailing lists obtained from county records for advertising, sales or solicitation purposes, and will not restrict his company’s usage of the information.

The ordinance also exempts news publications, nonprofit activities and academic research.

The county will continue to allow individual access to county records.The ordinance is aimed at companies that obtain wholesale lists of names through electronic access. “We’re not denying access,” said Council Member Dennis Schafer, R- District F. Schafer, a member of the County Data Board, said that one reason for the measure is that the demand for data is so great that the county’s computer system is being “overtaxed to the point where other business can’t be done.”

The Capital Avenue land use plan had previously been adopted by both the Area Plan Commission and the Mishawaka Plan Commission. The plan covers a 20-square-mile area on either side of Capital Avenue stretching between Indiana 23 on the north and Kern Road on the south. The corridor extends laterally from Fir Road to Byrkit Avenue. The plan is intended to guide development along what will be a six-lane urban expressway when work is completed.

The development plan considers such aspects as soil conditions, topography and water problems and is intended to guide growth as demand for the area increases in the years to come.

County officials plan to oversee a survey of polling place conditions during the May 4 primary election that will be reported to the state under conditions established by the federal Help America Vote Act, which is intended to make voting places accessible to all.

Under the guidelines established by the legislation, the county will have until 2006 to either make changes in existing polling places or find new polling places that meet requirements.