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The Communicator NEWS & POLITICS

Lawsuit Proposed Against LPS Real Estate Data Solutions

Written by: Communicator StaffNovember 13, 2014

Joe Blust

AUBURN – Katie Firestone, the DeKalb county recorder, proposed a $300,000 lawsuit for breach of contract against the county’s former data analysis firm, LPS Real Estate Data Solutions, at the County Commissioner’s meeting.

LPS could view government records because of a system where they paid the county government a monthly fee and could view those documents to gather demographic and property ownership information. The firm was supposed to pay county recorders $1 per page for images that were printed for company from the government database. Between January 1, 2005 and March 1, 2013, LPS allegedly failed to pay for $315,679 worth of images owned by DeKalb County according to Firestone.

While the commissioners decided that they do not want to sue LPS separately because of cost limitations, they instructed the DeKalb County Recorder Katie Firestone and County Attorney Jim McCanna to continue investigating the case to find the best option. The commissioners said they unsure about the 40 percent fee that Firestone said the attorney would take from the money gained from the suit in exchange for representing the county and want to see if it is possible to negotiate a lower fee.

“I only thought they went back a few months,” Firestone said. “I had no idea it went that far.” She said that she had terminated the county’s deal with the firm about a year ago. Firestone also said during her testimony that an attorney at Sawyier and Williams in Chicago, IL said that LPS had admitted they failed to pay the required printing charges to multiple Indiana counties and reportedly have $80 million set aside for unpaid fees.

LPS is a California-based consulting firm that helps government offices increase efficiency and make their services more reliable through gathering data regarding real estate ownership and financing and then consolidating that data into a searchable database.

This lawsuit came from LPS gathering demographic information from multiple county governments in Indiana under contract, but violating the terms of those contracts by downloading government-owned images when they had not paid the county recorders the necessary fees.

Katie Firestone said during her testimony that DeKalb County is one of 91 county governments that Sawyier and Williams are inviting to join the lawsuit. Firestone said that currently, the firm has over twenty counties that have signed onto the lawsuit but is actively working to recruit more county governments that have not received payments from LPS.

When contacted, Jason Williams, attorney at Sawyier and Williams, declined to provide any comment on the case.

This is not the first time Indiana counties have reported problems with LPS. Jacqueline Rowan, a member of the county commissioners and a former county recorder, said that during her time as recorder that LPS did not inform the office of exactly what information they used from the documents they accessed. Rowan also said the firm never informed her if they planned to reimburse the county for any of the documents that they printed for their own use during her time as recorder.

The only office to sue LPS in Indiana so far is the St. Joseph County Recorder’s Office. According to Firestone they won suit, but did not say how much St. Joseph County was awarded in the case.