Common Pleas President Judge Pamela Dembe yesterday said that inaccurate criminal- court records kept by the clerk of Quarter Sessions are a "catastrophe waiting to happen."

District Attorney Lynne Abraham complained that the clerk loses court files and fails to collect bail that should be forfeited.

At a meeting of the Criminal Justice Advisory Board yesterday, both women repeated calls to fold the clerk's office into the First Judicial District in the city.

Vivian Miller, a Democratic ward leader who has been clerk of Quarter Sessions since 1992, responded by blaming judges for inaccurate records and judicial employees for lost records. The bail-forfeiture numbers, she said, were exaggerated.

City Councilman Bill Green, attending his first meeting as a voting member of the CJAB, later got an earful from Miller and her staff in a courthouse tour.

Dembe and Abraham, longtime critics of the clerk's office, raised their issues in and after the CJAB meeting, at which city and court officials discuss efficiencies.

"My fears are that there are people who are in jail [who] should not be in jail," Dembe said. "Someday, somebody's going to be hurt when they're in jail and shouldn't be, and the city is going to be liable big-time."

Abraham cited a 2008 city controller's audit that said recordkeeping was a problem at the clerk of Quarter Sessions.

"How did they get lost?" Abraham asked of the records. "Why are they doing pen-and-paper transcriptions of court orders and why are they losing them?"

Miller's daughter Robin Jones, who is her first deputy, gave Green and the Daily News a tour yesterday as clerk staff transferred information from paper files to a computer system.

The clerks said they had to use pen and paper to track court action, then transfer the information to computer, because the software is so awkward that they cannot log the quick-moving cases directly to the computer.

As for inaccurate records, Miller said judges should take the heat. Clerks prepare the court orders, but the judges sign them.

"The judge has to sign their name. So the onus is on the judge, I would think. Why would you sign something that is wrong?" Miller asked.

She suggested that Dembe and Abraham may want to abolish her office in part because "I'm not a lawyer. That is why they're trying to get me out of here. But I have common sense. If they can make us look inept, it would be easier to take over."

Miller rejects claims that the city is owed $1 billion in bail that should have been forfeited, saying that oft-cited figure includes cases dating from 1968 and that state law allows forfeited-bail cases to be pursued for only 20 years.

Unlike other independent city agencies like the sheriff's office, residents do not need to vote on a city charter change to fold the clerk of Quarter Sessions. Council could pass legislation. Mayor Nutter last year called for consolidation of the city's independent agencies.

Still, disbanding a city agency with 115 jobs and a $5 million budget would require political pull, especially within the city's dominant Democratic Party.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the party's chairman, did not respond yesterday to a detailed message from the Daily News.

"People are afraid of change, primarily because they don't know what that means to their family's livelihood," Green said. "So in what we do, we have to be sensitive to that reaction."

Green said he would like Miller to try to solve problems in her office. He suggested a consultant be hired to help find ways to be more efficient.

"Yes, yes, yes," Miller replied. "Anything that would help. No problem. I would welcome it."