Commissioners field about Register-Recorder’s office

The Susquehanna County Courthouse was built in the Greek Revival style – one of the architectural styles prominent in the Montrose Historic District which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

The Susquehanna County Commissioners fielded questions about the situation in the Register/Recorder’s office at the Wednesday, Nov. 23, meeting. The county’s elected Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds, Michelle Estabrook, resigned from the position after a criminal charge was filed against her.

The commissioners formally acknowledged Estabrook’s resignation at the meeting

A member of the audience at the commissioners’ meeting questioned the number of Register and Recorder office accounts, noting the state ethics commission reported there were seven accounts.

With County Auditor Rick Ainey also in attendance, Commissioner Alan Hall asked him to elaborate on the accounts.

Ainey said, “We knew about five accounts. We didn’t find out about the other two until the independent auditor came in to straighten the books out.”

Ainey said the two additional accounts have a county number assigned to them – meaning, he said, that the county auditors should be looking at those accounts.

The independent auditor obtained information about those two accounts through the bank, and not the register/recorder’s office.

The audience member also asked if anyone from the office informed the commissioners about issues or concerns.

“To my knowledge, nobody ever said anything to me,” Hall responded.

“I give the auditors credit here they tried and tried and tried and tried and tried,” replied the audience member. She also voiced concern that two other people in the department signed the checks that had been written to Estabrook’s daughter for alleged bookkeeping services.

The commissioners were also questioned about the current auditing status of the register/recorder’s office accounts.

Hall said the county auditors continue to audit the books, and “try to audit them on a monthly basis, based on what they can get their hands on.” He said the county auditors are “working through it.”

Ainey explained that the county auditors conduct an annual audit, along with the monthly audit, and that those are up to date.

“When we took office, that office was behind be years,” Ainey said. The office is still behind by two to three months in submitting paperwork.

Currently, the office is being helmed by First Deputy Rachel Carrico in the position of Acting Register and Recorder, as per county code. Hall said it is up to the governor’s office to appoint someone or not, and given that the position is up for election in 2023, Hall doubted that an official appointment to the position would be made.

The commissioners entered into an agreement with T&S Tax, Inc., of Montrose, for general bookkeeping and accounting services at a rate of $110 per hour, as needed.

Hall said T&S Tax would be providing forensic accounting work on the Register/Recorder office accounts.

Penn State Extension MOU

The commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Penn State Cooperative Extension for services to be provided to the county in 2023, in the amount of $281,166, and paid quarterly as services are rendered.

Hall said that with about 300 children participating in 4-H, Susquehanna County has one of the largest programs in the state. “Over the last several years, (Penn State Extension) has struggled to keep employees with the workload.”

In the coming year, Hall explained, the county will have two full-time 4-H Educators in an effort to ease the heavy workload.

And, he said, the expenditure is within about $15,000 of this year’s, with the county expecting a credit of about $25,000 for services that were paid for but not provided.

Agenda Items Approved

The following agenda items were also approved:

*agreement for the sale and purchase of an agricultural easement between Denise Cobb, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Agricultural Land Board and the Susquehanna County Conservation District Board for an agricultural easement on property in Union Dale for $6,966.90;

*Tax Claim Bureau exoneration request of all delinquent taxes for a parcel in Franklin Twp. Tax Claim received notification from Montrose Area School District that an error had been made;

*Appointed the following people to the Susquehanna County Conservation District Board of Directors: Edward Price, Union Dale, Public Director, Jan. 1, 2023 – Dec. 31, 2026; Marvin Small, Montrose, Public Director, Jan. 1, 2023 – Dec. 31, 2026; and Commissioner Elizabeth Arnold, Commissioner Director, Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2023;

*Extended terms of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee through June 30, 2023: Bill Bayne, Sam Cosmello, Adam Diaz, Tom Follert, Doug Sivers, Jen Hibbard, Commissioner Alan Hall.


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