WASHINGTON COUNTY (UTAH). COUNTY CLERK
Agency History #1435
The office of Washington County Clerk, as a member of the county court, was created by the government of the Territory of Utah in 1852 as the county's primary record keeper with the mission to ensure the proper care, handling, and filing of county records. The County Clerk was known originally as Clerk of the County Court until statehood in 1896 when the name was officially changed to County Clerk.
The Washington County Clerk, as the accountant and bookkeeper of the county, is required to keep an official record of every business transaction and carefully file all papers, books, and records which pertain to public affairs. The clerk also has a number of responsibilities in conducting elections and organizing political parties, recording marks and brands, documenting the taxation process, reporting on county finances, maintaining a bounty record, recording naturalizations, executing legal transactions in regard to county property, recording incorporations until 1961, recording all official bonds of county officials, except his own, and maintaining marriage records. At various times, the clerk has also acted as clerk or secretary to the County Commission (1540) and the District Court (277, 1682).
As Clerk of the County Court, the clerk had the requirement to take an oath of office, file a bond with the supreme court, affix their seal to all papers, record all proceedings, issue processes, and deliver appeal transcripts (Ordinances of the State of Deseret, 1850, p. 21, sec 25). Further duties were added in 1851 when clerks were required to settle with the county road commissioner, the assessor, and collector, report fiscal affairs of the county, receive claims against the county (O.S.D., 1851 p. 19 sec. 4), prepare election notices (ibid., p. 24, sec. 2), compile lists of registered voters (Compiled Laws of Utah, 1888, p. 320, sec. 5-8), and perform various other election duties (O.S.D., 1850, p. 9-11, sec. 6-20).
The territorial legislature required clerks to keep a record of marks and brands (Laws of Utah, 1852, p. 85, sec. 6), count election votes with the selectmen or probate judge (L. of U., 1851-70, p. 90, sec 7), fill out tax levies and deliver them to the assessor and collector, and to make an annual report of receipts and disbursements of the county treasurer (L. of U., 1854, p. 9, sec. 10).
The clerk's duties as probate court (1738) clerk ended when the granting of statehood in 1896 dissolved the probate court. Following statehood, the title of the office was changed to County Clerk with the position designated as clerk to the board of county commissioners with duties to record minutes of board meetings, file reports, and list all claims allowed and report the same to the county treasurer (L. of U., 1896, chap. 131, sec. 16). In 1933 the county clerk's role was expanded to ex- officio clerk of the district court (Revised Statutes of Utah, 1933, 19-5-14 and 19-17-1; Constitution Art. 8, sec. 14).
District Court duties included keeping the seal of the court, issuing notices and entering a synopsis of all orders, judgments, and decrees. In 1943, these duties were expanded to include keeping fee books, criminal registers, naturalization-declarations of intention, jurors' certificates books, witness books, all jurors and witnesses attendance records, execution books, judgment books, judgment dockets, administration of oaths, register of probate and guardianship proceedings, and probate record books. (Utah Code Annotated, 1943 Chapter 17, 19-17-2).
As clerk to the board of county commissioners the clerk was required to keep records of incorporations until 1961 (ibid., 18-2-9), a fee book for all monies received (ibid., 19-17-4), register of marriages (ibid., 58-2-2), send marriage statistics to the State Board of Health (ibid., 35-2-2), execute under seal all deeds and conveyances of real estate for the county, take acknowledgments and administer oaths, keep the seal of the county clerk (ibid., 19-17-4), and file all official bonds of county officials, except his own (ibid., 19-13-11).
Election duties of the county clerk include keeping minutes of all election proceedings, notifying all election officers of their appointments (ibid., 25-2-23), filing certificates of nomination (ibid., 25- 4-3), preparing and delivering ballots and poll books (ibid., 25-6-8), acting as ex-officio clerk of the board of county canvassers (ibid., 25-7-2) which required the clerk to record the results of elections (ibid., 25-7-5), delivering election certificates to winning candidates (ibid., 25-7-7), making certified abstracts of canvassers' records (ibid., 25-7-8), and transmitting them to the secretary of state (ibid., 25-10-20). The clerk is also required to submit a report to the secretary of state regarding the election and appointment of county officers. The report must include the elected officials name, county of residence, name of office elected to, and expiration of term (ibid., 1943, 19-17-5).
In 1988 the county clerk's duties as district court clerk were revoked and simplified with duties simply stated as follows: "The county clerk is clerk of the governing body of the county." This description applies to all clerks except for those in secondary counties where clerks also act as clerk to the district court in the state district court administrative system (L. of U., 1988, 17-20-1).
Initially County Clerks were appointed by the County Court as Clerk of the County Court . In 1888, the office of the county clerk was made elective for a term of two years with the clerk acting as ex-officio clerk of the probate court (L. of U., 1888, chap. 51, sec. 1, Art. 2). The County Clerk is allowed the appointment of deputies and must maintain offices at the county seat and keep their offices open for the transaction of business from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
COMPILED BY: David Clark, June 1996
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Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.