Registers of deeds have no obligation to file or record “common-law liens" or “common-law writs of attachment." 69 Atty. Gen. 58.
Registers of deeds entering into contracts under sub. (2) (c) may insist on provisions protecting the identity and integrity of records obtained under the contracts and protecting the public. Authority to require provisions directly prohibiting the contracting party from selling or disseminating copies of the records is not prohibited and may reasonably be implied from the general contracting authority under sub. (2) (c). OAG 1-03
The fee requirements of sub. (2) (b), not those of s. 19.35 (3), apply to electronic copies of records obtained pursuant sub. (4), unless the requester has entered into a contract authorized by sub. (2) (c). OAG 1-03
Under s. 706.05 (1), only instruments that affect an interest in land are entitled to be recorded. A land patent is the instrument by which the government conveys title to portions of the public domain to private individuals. “Land patents," “updates of land patent" and other, similarly-titled documents filed by private individuals that purport to be grants of private land from private individuals to themselves or other private individuals are not true land patents and are invalid on their face and not entitled to recording under s. 706.05 (1). OAG 4-12
County abstractor; appointment; duties; fees. 59.44(1)(a)
Except as provided under par. (b)
, whenever any county adopts a tract index system or any recognized chain of title system, the board may create a department to be known as an abstract department, either in connection with or independent of the office of the register of deeds, as the board considers advisable. The board may appoint a competent person for a term of 2 years, who shall be known as the county abstractor, and shall have charge of and operate the abstract department. The board shall furnish a seal for the abstractor, who shall place the seal on every abstract issued by the abstractor.
In any county with a county executive or a county administrator, if the county creates an abstract department under par. (a)
, the county executive or county administrator shall appoint and supervise the county abstractor. Such appointment shall be subject to confirmation by the board unless the board, by ordinance, elects to waive confirmation or unless the appointment is made under a civil service system competitive examination procedure established under s. 59.52 (8)
or ch. 63
The register of deeds shall be eligible to hold the office of county abstractor and may hold both offices at the same time.
The county abstractor shall make and deliver to any person an abstract of title to any land in the county, upon the payment of the required fee.
The board shall fix the salary of said abstractor, provide such clerical assistance as may be necessary and fix their compensation and shall fix the fees to be received for the compiling and furnishing of abstracts and may at any time prescribe regulations for the operation and conduct of said department. All fees received for the compiling and furnishing of abstracts shall be paid into the county treasury.
The board may by two-thirds vote of all the members of the board discontinue furnishing abstracts.
History: 1985 a. 29
; 1991 a. 316
; 1995 a. 201
; Stats. 1995 s. 59.44; 1995 a. 225
; 1997 a. 35
County surveyor; duties, deputies, fees. 59.45(1)(a)(a)
The county surveyor shall do all of the following:
Execute, personally or by a deputy, all surveys that are required by the county or by a court. Surveys for individuals or corporations may be executed at the county surveyor's discretion.
Make, personally or by a deputy, a record, in books or on drawings and plats that are kept for that purpose, of all corners that are set and the manner of fixing the corners, of each survey made personally, by deputies or by other professional land surveyors and arrange or index the record so it is an easy-to-use reference and file and preserve in the office the original field notes and calculation thereof. Within 60 days after completing any survey, the county surveyor shall make a true and correct copy of the foregoing record, in record books or on reproducible papers to be furnished by the county and kept in files in the office of the county surveyor to be provided by the county. In a county with a population of 750,000 or more where there is no county surveyor, a copy of the record shall also be filed in the office of the regional planning commission which acts in the capacity of county surveyor for the county.
Furnish a copy of any record, plat or paper in the office to any person on demand and upon payment to the county of the required fees.
Administer to every survey assistant engaged in any survey, before commencing their duties, an oath or affirmation to faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of survey assistant, and the deputies are empowered to administer the same.
Perform all other duties that are required by law.
Surveys for individuals or corporations may be performed by any professional land surveyor who is employed by the parties requiring the services, providing that within 60 days after completing any survey the professional land surveyor files a true and correct copy of the survey in the office of the county surveyor. In counties with a population of 750,000 or more the copy shall be filed in the office of the register of deeds and in the office of the regional planning commission which acts in the capacity of county surveyor for the county.
(2) Surveyor; deputies.
The county surveyor may appoint and remove deputies at will on filing a certificate thereof with the clerk.
(3) Surveyor; fees.
In addition to the regular fees of professional land surveyors that are received from the parties employing the county surveyor, the county surveyor may receive a salary from the county.
Compensation and duties of an elected county surveyor and possible conflicts of interest in public contracts are discussed. 60 Atty. Gen. 134.
Duties of county and other land surveyors and minimum standards for property surveys are discussed. 69 Atty. Gen. 160.
Penalty for nonfeasance.
Any county surveyor, any city, village, or town engineer, or any professional land surveyor who fails or refuses to perform any duty required of that person by law shall forfeit not less than $25 nor more than $50 for each such failure or refusal.
History: 1991 a. 316
; 1993 a. 246
; 1995 a. 201
; Stats. 1995 s. 59.46; 2013 a. 358
County auditors; powers; duties. 59.47(1)(1)
In every county, except as provided in s. 59.255 (2) (i)
, the clerk shall act as auditor, unless a separate office of county auditor is created as provided in sub. (2)
, and, when directed by resolution of the board, shall examine the books and accounts of any county officer, board, commission, committee, trustees or other officer or employee entrusted with the receipt, custody or expenditure of money, or by or on whose certificate any funds appropriated by the board are authorized to be expended, whether compensated for services by fees or by salary, and all original bills and vouchers on which moneys have been paid out and all receipts of moneys received by them. The clerk shall have free access to such books, accounts, bills, vouchers and receipts as often as may be necessary to perform the duties required under this subsection and he or she shall report in writing the results of the examinations to the board.
The board by resolution may create a separate office of county auditor and may fix the compensation of the auditor. The auditor shall perform the duties and have all of the powers conferred upon the clerk as auditor by sub. (1)
, and shall perform such additional duties and shall have such additional powers as are imposed and conferred upon him or her from time to time by resolution adopted by the board.
If a county auditor's office is created under sub. (2)
, the chairperson of the board shall appoint a person known to be skilled in matters of public finance and accounting to act as county auditor. The appointment shall be made under ss. 63.01
and shall be subject to confirmation by the board. The auditor shall direct the keeping of all of the accounts of the county, in all of its offices, departments and institutions, and shall keep books of account necessary to properly perform the duties of the office. The auditor's salary and the amount of the official bond shall be fixed by the board. The auditor shall perform all duties pertaining to the office, have all of the powers and perform the duties in sub. (1)
and perform other duties imposed by the board.
The board by resolution may authorize a county auditor appointed under sub. (3)
to appoint a deputy auditor under ss. 63.01
to aid him or her in the discharge of the duties of his or her office, and who, in the absence or disability of the county auditor, or in case of a vacancy in said office, shall perform all the duties of the office of county auditor until such vacancy is filled, or disability is removed. Such deputy shall execute and file an official bond in the same amount as that given by the county auditor.
History: 1977 c. 265
; 1983 a. 192
; 1995 a. 201
; Stats. 1995 s. 59.47; 2011 a. 62
This section's effect on county bookkeeping and auditing is discussed. 67 Atty. Gen. 248.
The statutory duties of the county clerk under ch. 70 may not be transferred to the county auditor, but the county auditor may be granted supervisory authority over the manner in which such duties are exercised. OAG 6-08
The removal of the county auditor is subject to the specific civil service provisions established by ordinance or resolution of the county board under ss. 63.01 to 63.17 and is not governed by the more general removal provision contained in s. 17.10 (3). Rather than creating the separate office of county auditor pursuant under s. 59.47 (2), a county board could create a department of administration under s. 59.52 (1) (b) and assign administrative audit functions to that department under that statute. If the administrative function is under the jurisdiction of the county auditor the function may be assigned to the department of administration. A person in the department of administration who performs audit functions therefore need not be appointed using civil service procedures. OAG 6-08
The county executive elected under s. 59.17
or the county administrator elected or appointed under s. 59.18
shall appoint a county assessor as prescribed in and subject to the limitations of s. 70.99
, approve the hiring of the assessor's staff as prescribed in that section and otherwise comply with that section. In counties with neither a county executive nor a county administrator the appointment of the county assessor shall be the duty of the chairperson of the board subject to the approval of the board and subject to the limitations of s. 70.99
. The hiring of the assessor's staff shall be the duty of the county assessor subject to the limitations of s. 70.99
History: 1995 a. 201
POWERS AND DUTIES OF COUNTIES
Board powers. 59.51(1)(1)
Organizational or administrative powers.
The board of each county shall have the authority to exercise any organizational or administrative power, subject only to the constitution and any enactment of the legislature which grants the organizational or administrative power to a county executive or county administrator or to a person supervised by a county executive or county administrator or any enactment which is of statewide concern and which uniformly affects every county. Any organizational or administrative power conferred under this subchapter shall be in addition to all other grants. A county board may exercise any organizational or administrative power under this subchapter without limitation because of enumeration, and these powers shall be broadly and liberally construed and limited only by express language.
(2) General authority.
The board may represent the county, have the management of the business and concerns of the county in all cases where no other provision is made, apportion and levy taxes and appropriate money to carry into effect any of the board's powers and duties.
History: 1995 a. 201
County administration. 59.52(1)(1)
Department of administration. 59.52(1)(a)(a)
In counties with a population of 750,000 or more, the county may create a department of administration, provide for the appointment by the county executive of a director of such department and assign such administrative functions to the department as it considers appropriate, subject to the limitations of this paragraph. No such function shall be assigned to the department where the performance of the same by some other county office, department or commission is required by any provision of the constitution or statutes of this state, except that administrative functions under the jurisdiction of the county civil service commission or the county auditor may be so assigned notwithstanding sub. (8)
and ss. 59.47
. Such director shall be appointed by the county executive in the unclassified civil service and is subject to confirmation by the county board, as provided in s. 59.17 (2) (bm)
Any county with a population of less than 750,000 may create a department of administration and assign any administrative function to the department as it considers appropriate, except that no administrative function may be assigned to the department if any other provision of state law requires the performance of the function by any other county office, department or commission unless the administrative function is under the jurisdiction of the county civil service commission or the county auditor, in which case, the function may be assigned to the department notwithstanding sub. (8)
and ss. 59.47
. Except as provided under par. (a)
, in any county with a county executive or county administrator, the county executive or county administrator shall have the authority to appoint and supervise the head of a department of administration; and except as provided under par. (a)
, the appointment is subject to confirmation by the county board unless the appointment is made under a civil service system competitive examination procedure established under sub. (8)
or ch. 63
(2) Public records.
The board may prescribe the form and manner of keeping the records in any county office and the accounts of county officers. The board may enact an ordinance designating legal custodians for the county. Unless prohibited by law, the ordinance may require the clerk or the clerk's designee to act as legal custodian for the board and for any committees, commissions, boards or authorities created by ordinance or resolution of the board.
(3) Records where kept; public examination; rebinding; transcribing. 59.52(3)(a)(a)
The books, records, papers and accounts of the board shall be deposited with the respective county clerks and shall be open without any charge to the examination of all persons.
When any book, public record or the record of any city, village or town plat in any county office shall, from any cause, become unfit for use in whole or in part, the board shall order that the book, record or plat be rebound or transcribed. If the order is to rebind such book, record or plat, the rebinding must be done under the direction of the officer in charge of the book, record or plat, and in that officer's office. If the order is to transcribe such book, record or plat, the officer having charge of the same shall provide a suitable book for that purpose; and thereupon such officer shall transcribe the same in the book so provided and carefully compare the transcript with the originals, and make the same a correct copy thereof, and shall attach to the transcript a certificate over that officer's official signature that that officer has carefully compared the matter therein contained with, and that the same is a correct and literal copy of the book, record or plat from which the same was transcribed, naming such book. The certified copy of the book, record or plat shall have the same effect in all respects as the original, and the original book, record or plat shall be deposited with the treasurer and carefully preserved, except that in counties having a population of 750,000 or more where a book containing a tract index is rewritten or transcribed the original book may be destroyed. The order of the board directing the transcribing of any book, record or plat duly certified by the clerk shall, with such certificate, be recorded in each copy of the book, record or plat transcribed. The fee of the officer for such service shall be fixed by the board, not exceeding 10 cents per folio, or if such books or any part thereof consist of printed forms, not to exceed 5 cents per folio for such books or records, to be paid by the county.
(4) Destruction, transfer of obsolete records. 59.52(4)(a)(a) Destruction of obsolete county records.
Whenever necessary to gain needed vault and filing space, county or court officers and the custodian of the records of all courts of record in the state may, subject to pars. (b)
, destroy obsolete records in their custody as follows:
Notices of tax apportionment that are received from the secretary of state, after 3 years.
Copies of notices of tax apportionment that are sent to local taxing districts by the clerk, after 3 years.
Records of bounty claims that are forwarded to the department of natural resources, after one year.
Lists of officers of a municipality that are certified to the county clerk by the municipal clerks, after the date of the expiration of the term listed.
Crop reports that are submitted to the clerk by the local assessors, after 3 years.
Illegal tax certificates that are charged back to local taxing districts, 3 years after the date of charging back such certificates.
Notices of application for the taking of tax deeds and certificates of nonoccupancy, proofs of service and tax certificates that are filed with the clerk in connection with the taking of tax deeds, after 15 years.
Claims that are paid by the county, and papers supporting such claims, after 7 years.
Contracts, notices of taking bids, and insurance policies to which the county is a party, 7 years after the last effective day thereof.
Reports of town treasurers that are submitted to the clerk on dog licenses sold and records of dog licenses issued, after 3 years.
The clerk's copies of all receipts that are issued by the treasurer, 4 years or until after being competently audited, whichever is earlier.
Copies of notices that are given by the clerk to the town assessors setting out lands owned by the county and lands sold by the county, after 3 years.
All other receipts of the treasurer, after 7 years.
Case records and other record material of all public assistance that are kept as required under ch. 49
, if no payments have been made for at least 3 years and if a face sheet or similar record of each case and a financial record of all payments for each aid account are preserved in accordance with rules adopted by the department of health services or by the department of children and families. If the department of health services or the department of children and families has preserved such case records and other record material on computer disc or tape or similar device, a county may destroy the original records and record material under rules adopted by the department that has preserved those case records or other record material.
Marriage license applications and records and papers pertaining to the applications, including antenuptial physical examinations and test certificates, consents of parent or guardian for marriage and orders of the court waiving the waiting period, after 10 years.
Books in the office of the register of deeds in counties with a population of 750,000 or more containing copies of deeds, mortgages, other miscellaneous documents and military discharges that are authorized by law to be recorded in the office if the records first shall be photographed or microphotographed and preserved in accordance with ch. 228
(b) Transfer of obsolete county records.
Before the destruction of public records under par. (a)
, the proper officers in counties with a population of less than 750,000 shall make a written offer to the historical society under s. 44.09 (1)
. If the offer is accepted by the society within 60 days, the officers shall transfer title to noncurrent records in their custody as follows:
Original papers, resolutions and reports that are connected with board proceedings.
Destruction of county records, when.
If title is not accepted by the historical society within 60 days after a written offer is made under par. (b)
, county officers in counties with a population of less than 750,000 may destroy records as follows:
Original papers, resolutions and reports appearing in county board proceedings, 6 years following the date of first publication of the same in the official proceedings of the board.
No assessment roll that contains forest crop acreage may be destroyed without the prior approval of the secretary of revenue.
(5) Official seals.
The board may provide an official seal for the county and the county officers required to have one; and for the circuit court, with such inscription and devices as that court requires.
How acquired; purposes.
Take and hold land acquired under ch. 75
and acquire, lease or rent property, real and personal, for public uses or purposes of any nature, including without limitation acquisitions for county buildings, airports, parks, recreation, highways, dam sites in parks, parkways and playgrounds, flowages, sewage and waste disposal for county institutions, lime pits for operation under s. 59.70 (24)
, equipment for clearing and draining land and controlling weeds for operation under s. 59.70 (18)
, ambulances, acquisition and transfer of real property to the state for new collegiate institutions or research facilities, and for transfer to the state for state parks and for the uses and purposes specified in s. 23.09 (2) (d)
. The power of condemnation may not be used to acquire property for the purpose of establishing or extending a recreational trail; a bicycle way, as defined in s. 340.01 (5s)
; a bicycle lane, as defined in s. 340.01 (5e)
; or a pedestrian way, as defined in s. 346.02 (8) (a)
(b) Control; actions.
Make all orders concerning county property and commence and maintain actions to protect the interests of the county.
Direct the clerk to lease, sell or convey or contract to sell or convey any county property, not donated and required to be held for a special purpose, on terms that the board approves. In addition, any county property may be leased, rented or transferred to the United States, the state, any other county within the state or any municipality or school district within the county. Oil, gas and mineral rights may be reserved and leased or transferred separately.