Wyoming County Responds to Chesapeake's Suit
By D.C. Koviack
Earlier this month when news of Chesapeake’s suit against Wyoming County broke, the county had not yet prepared a response. Now, County Solicitor Jim Davis has filed an answer to Chesapeake’s complaint. Chesapeake is claiming that the Wyoming County Register and Recorder’s Office is incorrect in charging separate fees for each discrete instrument filed on “bundled” documents. A “bundled” document is one that contains several—sometimes up to 100—smaller leases and agreements.
Wyoming County’s Register and Recorder, Dennis Montross, maintains that the same amount of work is required to log and enter each of these leases or agreements, so he will therefore continue to charge each as a separate instrument. Chesapeake wants to pay only one fee for a single document even though that one document may contain several smaller agreements.
Chesapeake, in its suit, cited a recent decision in Wayne County upholding the gas company’s point of view. However, that decision has been appealed and until that appeal is determined, the decision is not binding on Wyoming County and “does not establish a precedent for other counties,” as Davis noted in the response.
Wyoming County’s response, filed on Aug. 11, denies Chesapeake’s allegation that Montross has “failed to perform his duty” and that Chesapeake is entitled to “declaratory and injunctive relief to require [Montross] to perform his...duty.” The answer also specifically denies Chesapeake’s claim that Montross must record all documents affecting real estate interests. Specifically, Davis’s response notes that Montross, in his capacity as Recorder of Deeds, is compelled to record “all documents...that do not conflict with lawful office policy for recordable instruments.”
The county maintains that the office policy in force at its Recorder’s Office is lawful. The response also notes that there is no provision in Title 21, which governs the Recorder’s Office, with regard to multiple assignments of leases, mortgages or similar documents. The response also specifically denies Chesapeake’s allegation that Montross’s refusal to record multiple lease assignments bundled into one document is improper. The response maintains and upholds Montross’s actions and behavior with regard to the bundled documents and their recording, and denies that Chesapeake is owed any damages arising from what Wyoming County maintains is a lawful and proper practice. A response by Chesapeake is expected.
The decision by the appellate court on the Wayne County matter could take several months.