LAWRENCE — M. Paul Iannuccillo arrived at work at 9:30 on the morning of Jan. 13, stayed for about an hour, then left to meet with contractors at his mother’s house and make a run to pick up electrical supplies.
He drove back to work around 2:30, stayed a couple of hours, then went home, logging in 3 hours, 14 minutes at the office.
This was a typical work day for Iannuccillo, the elected Northern Essex register of deeds, who was paid $109,601 in taxpayer money in 2015 to run an office with a $1.2 million budget and a crucial role in protecting the rights of property buyers and sellers.
In a six-month investigation, The Eagle-Tribune found that Iannuccillo spent an average of less than four hours a day in the Registry of Deeds. That office is responsible for the integrity of the official public records of all property transfers, mortgages and other real estate documents for Andover, Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover.
While state law spells out the office’s responsibilities for caring for copies of property owners’ real estate title documents, the law is silent on what a register of deeds’ duties and responsibilities are. Iannuccillo does not report to anyone and is not required to track his hours or paid leave.
In 2012, Iannuccillo campaigned on the promise that he would be a full-time register of deeds in the wake of revelations that his predecessor, Robert F. Kelley, spent half the day running errands, working at his private law firm, and drinking at the Gateway Pub across the street on taxpayer time.
“I won’t be working part time, or just sometimes,” Iannuccillo declared in a 2012 campaign video. “I’ll be working full time as your register of deeds.”
However, surveillance by The Eagle-Tribune from June through November 2015 and in January 2016 revealed that in the 26 days when a reporter watched him, Iannuccillo averaged 3 hours and 54 minutes at the registry per day.
The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the Riverwalk mill complex at 354 Merrimack St.
Comings and goings
During the investigation, Iannuccillo, who lives in North Andover with his wife and children, nearly always arrived at the office hours after it opened at 8 a.m. He generally showed up between 9 and 11 a.m. Many days he either took an hours-long lunch, or left for the day in the early afternoon.
He was seen running personal errands and holding campaign signs for Ron Marsan in his run for Methuen East District city councilor on Election Day last November at Tenney Grammar School.
On the week of Jan. 11, he spent much of his time at a house his mother owns on Jackson Street in Lawrence. There he met with electric contractors, unloaded empty W.B. Mason boxes he brought from the registry office into the house and picked up products at an electric supply business off Andover Street in Lawrence.
He never left home before 9 a.m. that week. He later said his mother is selling the Jackson Street house, and he was helping her prepare it for showing.
Overall, Iannuccillo’s work schedule did not fit a pattern.
His longest work day during the investigation was Sept. 14, when he was in the office for 6 hours and 26 minutes.
His shortest day was a warm, sunny, Friday, July 24, when he was there from 9:30 a.m. to 9:58 a.m., for a total of 28 minutes.
On Jan. 20, two Eagle-Tribune reporters and a photographer visited Iannuccillo’s office and conducted a 30-minute videotaped interview to ask him about his work schedule.
Iannuccillo initially described his typical hours as 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but when informed of his average throughout the investigation, he said he is in the office “often.”
“I’m here a lot. I am,” Iannuccillo said “I move around, as well.”
Asked if he’s satisfied with the hours he is putting in, he paused before saying, “Well, there are some days I am here a little longer. But for the most part I’m here a lot.”
And when asked what he does in the afternoon, he answered, “Here? I return some phone calls. We review some documents. We go over a list of things we need to get done on a daily basis.”
Other registry employees declined to comment on his schedule.
Overseen by Galvin
The register of deeds is a remnant of county government, which the state Legislature abolished in Essex County in 1999. The state Secretary of the Commonwealth oversees the two registries of deeds in Essex County, though each register of deeds is an elected official.
The Eagle-Tribune contacted the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin for comment on its investigation.
“The secretary has no comment,” said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin. “Registers are independently elected officials, and they’re subject to the approval of the voters.”
Galvin’s office has oversight of the registries’ budgets and hiring. When an Eagle-Tribune reporter asked about the oversight the secretary of the commonwealth has over registry offices, including details about hiring and the budget, McNiff hung up the phone.
McNiff did not return four subsequent voice messages left Jan. 21 and Jan. 22 outlining the questions about oversight and seeking comment.
There are 21 registries of deeds in Massachusetts, each with its own elected register. Essex County has two — the Northern Essex office in Lawrence covering Andover, Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover, and the Southern Essex office in Salem covering the remaining cities and towns.
The registries of deeds are responsible for maintaining a permanent public record of all legal real estate documents submitted by the public, including deeds, mortgages, surveyor and architect plans, liens, certificates of title, and other records affecting title to property.
The Northern Essex Registry of Deeds has a $1.2 million budget this year.
Staff reporter Garrin Marchetti contributed to this report.
Follow Douglas Moser on Twitter @EagleEyeMoser. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.
Highlights of Iannuccillo’s schedule during surveillance
Here are examples of how Iannuccillo spent his work time during The Eagle-Tribune investigation:
July 30: He arrived at the office at about 11:20 a.m. after attending a funeral in North Andover, and left for the day at 1:31 p.m., for a total of two hours and 11 minutes at the office. A reporter followed him as he drove to his house, where his car remained until 4:30, when the reporter left.
Aug. 6: He first arrived at the office at 2:26 p.m. and left at 4:34, for a total of two hours and eight minutes.
Sept. 10: He arrived at the office at 9:27 a.m., left at 10:30 a.m., returned at 12:03 p.m., left again at 12:42 p.m., returned at 2:20 p.m. and left for the day at 3:19 p.m., for a total of two hours and 41 minutes.
Sept. 17: He arrived at the office at 9:04 a.m., left at 11:15, returned at 1:54 p.m. and left for the day at 4:21 p.m., for a total of four hours and 38 minutes.
Oct. 1: He arrived at 8:18 a.m. — his earliest arrival during the investigation — left at 11:24 a.m., returned at 3:29 p.m. and left for the day at 4:34, for a total of four hours and 11 minutes.
Oct. 6: He arrived at the office at 10:58 a.m. and left at 1:07 p.m., putting him in the office for two hours and nine minutes. He drove to Holy Family Hospital in Methuen and stayed there until 2:33 p.m. After that, he drove toward Interstate 495, but did not return to the office for the rest of the day.
Later that evening, he attended a political event for James P. Jajuga, who was running for re-election to the Methuen City Council, at the Irish Cottage in Methuen.