Clearing up the confusion regarding publication of legal notices

As regular readers of The Daily Sentinel are probably aware, Mesa County Public Trustee Paul Brown moved legal notices about foreclosures from The Daily Sentinel to the Palisade Tribune/Fruita Times.

Foreclosure notices provided a healthy chunk of revenue for The Daily Sentinel, the loss of which has led to layoffs here and other painful cost cutting — measures we managed to avoid through the depths of the recession. But our pain is not the purpose of this column; the purpose is to clear up a few misconceptions about this issue.

Misconception 1: The Palisade Tribune/Fruita Times is charging less for foreclosure notices, which must be saving someone money.

Truth: The Fruita Times/Palisade Tribune charges exactly what The Daily Sentinel charges today for foreclosure notices. We have held the price unchanged for the last 18 years. Indeed, since the primary purpose of requiring public notice in this context is to comply with the Due Process Clause of the Constitution, the most relevant metric is “price per person put on notice.” Because the Sentinel’s readership is at least 10-fold that of the Palisade/Fruita publication — at the same price — the Sentinel is by far the cheaper option. By any measure, no one saves a dime by the Public Trustee’s move of foreclosure notices.

Misconception 2: Taxpayers pay for foreclosure notices.

Truth: Publication costs for foreclosure notices are part of the fee paid by attorneys who file the foreclosures. Attorneys charge their bank clients for those fees, so essentially banks are paying for foreclosure notices. Those monies simply pass through the Public Trustee’s office; they do not come from taxpayers in any way.

Misconception 3: The Public Trustee has the final say about where foreclosure notices are published.

Truth: Colorado law says that the mortgage holder (the bank) determines the place of publication. Absent specific instructions from the mortgage holder, the public trustee can choose.

Misconception 4: The Public Trustee is an elected position and therefore must comply with the wishes of his local constituency.

Truth: The public trustee is a political patronage position appointed by the governor. Paul Brown was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter. He was re-appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Prior to the creation of a public trustee position in Mesa County, its functions were performed by the county treasurer.

Number 5: The Daily Sentinel fouled up a foreclosure notice, which led to this move.

Truth: Actually, this is not a misconception. It’s true. We made a mistake in a legal description that appeared in the paper in July of this year. It’s unacceptable, and we regret the mistake enormously because the date of publication triggers a number of subsequent deadlines in the foreclosure process. It was our mistake, but it’s worth noting that the final proof — the proof that occurs before the notice gets printed — is performed by the Public Trustee, Paul Brown.

In the end, this is an enormously regretful situation for everyone. The Daily Sentinel took a hit. We had to terminate good people. We closed our Montrose bureau. More cuts are possible. Banks are getting less for their publication dollars. With 10-fold less notice, properties in foreclosure will receive fewer bids, which will likely lower the sales prices, which may pull down the entire residential real estate market in Mesa County.

Not good. For anyone.

Why Paul Brown made this move remains a mystery to me. It serves no one’s interest, not even his own.

Jay Seaton is the publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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