Clerk Will Keep on Stamping

Brooke County Clerk Sylvia Benzo said her office will continue to offer notary services to the public despite being told by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office it should stop the practice.

The state office has informed Benzo her employees certified as notaries for the Brooke County Clerk’s Office can only act on items pertaining to the clerk’s office, and cannot provide notary services for the public.

“I’ve looked under West Virginia code, and can’t find anything that says I can’t do it,” Benzo said. “Until they smack me on the hand, we’re still going to do it. We’re here to help the public.”

Jake Glance, spokesman for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, pointed out Section 29C-2-301 of the West Virginia code pertaining to notaries and state and local government employees. It states, “The governor may appoint and commission such number of state and local government employees as notaries public, to act for and in behalf of their respective state and local government offices, as he deems proper. An appointee commissioned as a notary public under this section may act only for and in behalf of the government office or offices in which he is employed.”

Brooke County isn’t the only county in the Northern Panhandle where the county clerk’s office performs notary services for residents. Offices in Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties also offer the service.

The Hancock and Ohio county clerks’ offices, meanwhile, do notarization only for office purposes.

“If I get written up, we’ll take it from there,” Benzo said. “We always have done it, and I hope it does not come back to haunt me.”

Ohio County Clerk Patricia Fahey said her office has never provided notary services for the public. She said the task shouldn’t be taken lightly because the person doing the notarizing can be held responsible for any improprieties in the transaction.

For example, if a document shows a car has been sold for an amount well below its value and it is later revealed the figure was fraudulent, the notary is liable for the sales tax lost by the state.