Hinesville -- When the nation's first privatized statewide automated indexing system for Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) financing statements went on-line on January 3, 1995, it proved that big government with big government price tags for taxypayers could become a thing of the past.

Created and implemented by the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority (GSCCCA), the new automated system began operating in Atlanta on the first business day of the New Year. The new system is the result of a partnership between superior court clerks, bankers and lawyers, who recognized the need for a centralized indexing system for UCC financing statements in the state, according to Barry Wilkes, Clerk of Liberty Superior Court.

Wilkes, who served as president of the Council of Superior Court Clerks of Georgia, from 1989 until 1995, and as interim Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority executive director until December, 1995, when Carol Clark was named as the first full-time executive director, said, "The old system of UCC statements did not accommodate the needs of people doing business today. To perfect a lien on personal property statewide before January 1, 1995, it was necessary to file a financing statement in the 159 superior court clerks' offices in Georgia. As a result of implementation of the new central indexing system, a secured party need only file in one county in most cases to provide statewide notice as to filing."

Bankers and attorneys rejected a legislative proposal in 1990 to establish central filing of financing statements in the Secretary of State's office, Wilkes said. "They (bankers and attorneys) wanted to be able to continue filing (financing statements) in their counties, in the office of the clerk of superior court. We (clerks of superior court) agreed with them since we were concerned about preserving revenue derived from UCC filings for local county governments. So the logical conclusion was to create a system that permitted local filings to continue and that provided statewide notice," he said.

The Georgia General Assembly enacted legislation in 1993 creating GSCCCA to implement a statewide indexing system and requiring Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority to implement the new system not later than January 1, 1995. Former State Representativbe James M. "Jimmy" Floyd, from Hinesville, who was vice-chairman of the House Banking Committee, authored the bill. "His (Floyd's) primary concern was that there needed to be an automated system for notifying the world as to the existence of security interests in personal property. He talked with me about it and I convinced him that it was in the best interest of the taxpayers of this state to let clerks develop and run the system. The Secretary of State's Office and the Department of Administrative Services said the project would cost over $15 million, which was completely ridiculous. His influence kept the project out of the Secretary's (of State) hands, saved taxpayers of this state an estimated $15 million, preserved local revenues and maintained the preservation of local records in the office of a local, elected official (the office of the clerk of superior court)," Wilkes said.

The members of GSCCCA worked for a year-and-a-half developing a system for providing a central automated index. The first of its kind in the nation, the system enables the filing of a financing statement in any county of the state to secure an interest in personal property--including fixtures, crops, goods, purchase money, chattel, accounts, general intangibles, farm products, inventory and minerals. Upon receipt, the clerk of superior court receiving a UCC form has 24 hours to transmit a copy of the statement via facsimile machine to GSCCCA. A private vendor, Cott Systems, under contract to Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority, indexes all financing statements on a central computer-based indexing system.

On personal computers furnished by GSCCCA, the general public can view the index on-line during regular office hours in the office of the clerk of superior court of each county. Direct access is also available to the public through the authority. Direct access allows persons to have an on-line hook-up to the statewide system via modem. Requests for "certified searches" of the index are provided by GSCCCA at the cost of $10.00 per name searched. Title examiners and attorneys should obtain a certified search report to verify the existence of security interests statewide.

"We have proven that government can function without costing the taxpayers of this state an arm and a leg. While we have preserved much needed revenues for our counties, we have created a system to provide a service to the financial and legal communities that will help them conduct business more expediently. Not a cent of taxpayers' dollars have been spent on this project," Wilkes said.

Wilkes said that a "grass roots effort" by superior court clerks, the Georgia Bankers' Association (GBA) and the Community Bankers' Association of Georgia (CBA) was responsible for "getting the word out about statutory changes and policies and procedures adopted by GSCCCA that were effective on January 1, 1995. Members and staff of the Authority conducted seminars throughout the state in order to educate potential frequent filers of UCC financing statements concerning the new requirements for filing and how the new statewide automated system would work. "Everyone's work undoubtedly paid off, because the new system is up and running like everyone envisioned it would-which is most unusual for a project of such proportions," Wilkes said.

For other items related to the statewide UCC system, see Georgia UCC System Goes Online and Georgia's UCC's.