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The Philadelphia sheriff's office and its deflated foreclosure system is under construction.
Former Sheriff John Green left his post at the end of 2010 after more than 20 years in office. According to an audit report released last year, two private companies built systems to handle evictions and foreclosure sales. The companies were allegedly connected to Green and overcharged the city millions of dollars for the services.
Before the departure, the system was stripped out, and the office was left with an antiquated system that led to backlogs and delays, according to sources familiar with the situation. The sheriff office website isn't even accessible; a big, yellow 'under construction' graphic appears in lieu of information.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, President Judge of the First Judicial District Pamela Dembe and the current sheriff Jewell Williams finalized an advisory board Friday to help tackle the technological problems.
Representatives from each office will be on the board, including local attorneys. Michael McKeever, who represents banks for KML Law Group will be on the board.
"The office has been plagued by understaffing and a lack of technology," McKeever said in an interview.
Transferring money from a third-party who buys a home at sheriff office foreclosure sale to the bank usually takes 60 days. In some cases, it now takes eight months, according to McKeever.
The deed process has also been extended out several months as well.
The city, one of the largest in the country and one of the hardest hit by the crisis, has only the 97th highest foreclosure rate in the U.S., according to RealtyTrac. One in every 284 homes in Philadelphia is in the foreclosure process as of March 31, comparable to far healthier areas such as Dallas and Memphis, Tenn.
But the filings are picking up. Foreclosure activity jumped 33% in the first quarter, according to RealtyTrac, the fifth highest increase in the country.
McKeever said the board will attempt to make recommendations within three months, and the sheriff office hopes to install the necessary changes within one year.
"They just did not have the resources to do the sales. The goal here is an open transparent office," McKeever said. "Mayor Nutter has been very good. He's been a strong champion of ethics and accountability in the office. He saw how it was impacting the city."
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