By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
LONGTIME INCUMBENT CHALLENGED: Peter Altman says he wants to take over to improve the office. Jed Pittman, who has had the job since 1977, questions Altman's true motivation.
Jed Pittman's name is synonymous with clerk of courts. He has held the job for 27 years, outlasting a slew of challengers.
This year, Pittman faces Robert Altman, a New Port Richey attorney and older brother of County Commissioner Peter Altman.
Altman said he is motivated to run by his dealings with the clerk's office as a probate attorney. If a Social Security number or date is missing from paperwork, he must go in to correct the omission and then the document is reprocessed. Altman says clerks should be allowed to fill in missing information over the phone.
He sees other ways to make the office more efficient, including updating the computer system to make it easier to file information and for public viewing. Pittman has long been criticized for being reluctant to embrace technology. Altman said he would try to improve relations with other county offices, which could be useful during the budget season.
Having talked with some former clerk employees, Altman said there seems to be a problem with staff morale and turnover. He said the exact problem would have to be studied, but one solution is to give employees more responsibility and reward good service.
Pittman suggests Altman has a different reason for running: a state pension. He said he met with Altman after he announced he was running and the candidate told him he wanted that benefit. Altman denies that characterization.
Pittman said it is not his office's responsibility to correct attorneys' omissions or mistakes.
"At one time, 75 percent of the probate filings and guardianship were incorrect," Pittman said. "Now that triples my work when that happens."
As for updating computer technology, Pittman said steps are in place for scanning documents. He worked on a system to allow people to pay traffic tickets with a credit card over the Internet, an idea Altman has raised in his campaign. Pittman also said he is diverting more resources on employee training, to develop more leaders.
One of the main reasons Pittman cites for running again is to guide the clerk's office through changes under Article 5, the constitutional amendment that passes court operation costs from the county governments to the state.
JED PITTMAN, 62, has been Pasco clerk of circuit court since 1977. He was born in Clearwater and attended Gulf High School in New Port Richey. He has worked as a police officer, sheriff's detective and investigator. He is married and has two adult children. ASSETS: home in Hudson, stock, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCES OF INCOME: salary, stock dividend, retirement pay. WEB SITE: www.jedpittman.org
ROBERT ALTMAN, 48, is a native of New Port Richey and the older brother of County Commissioner Peter Altman. He is an attorney specializing in estate planning, probate and real estate law. He is married and has two sons. ASSETS: home in New Port Richey, vacant land in Hudson and New Port Richey, rental property in Hudson and New Port Richey. LIABILITIES: mortgage, credit line, bank loan. SOURCES OF INCOME: law practice, rental property.
The Pasco County clerk of the circuit court is responsible for keeping county and circuit court records, officially recorded documents such as property deeds and the minutes of County Commission meetings. The clerk is elected countywide for a four-year term. The job pays $122,457 this year.