15-0 vote on property theft, but is Council's move legal?

City Council yesterday passed an ordinance aimed at preventing property theft, despite concerns from the Nutter administration that the legislation wasn't legal.

Authored by Council members Bill Greenlee and Maria Quinones-Sanchez, the legislation would require the city Records Department to confirm that a person transferring a property is the real owner.

Greenlee and Quinones-Sanchez said that would help stop the transfer of stolen property, but Records Commissioner Joan Decker testified before Council recently that state law requires the immediate recording of deeds.

Still, Council approved the legislation, 15-0, with Councilman Brian O'Neill abstaining and Councilwoman Joan Krajewski absent.

"Why can't we find ways to solve this problem instead of finding ways not to?" Greenlee asked. "I hope the mayor signs the bill and we can work together."

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald yesterday said Nutter had not yet decided how to proceed on the issue.

Also yesterday, Council gave final passage to legislation abolishing the Clerk of Quarter Sessions office.

The office, which handled recordkeeping of the city's criminal cases and collected bail money, operated independently until April, when it was absorbed into the First Judicial District following an order from state Chief Justice Ron Castille.

Former Clerk Vivian Miller retired just before the changeover. Her office was criticized for years by the media and watchdog groups for poor recordkeeping.