Kane County Circuit Court Clerk Deb Seyller now says she was only making a "flippant remark" last week when she threatened to close her office if she doesn't get more money to pay her staff. Regardless of her intent, Seyller may have no power to back up the threat.
Seyller's ongoing request for a $555,000 midyear budget increase is a source of contention between her and the county board. Various board committees have shot down the request several times. The last county board review of the request resulted in a shouting match between Seyller and board member Cathy Hurlbut. Hurlbut told Seyller she believed the request for more money came only after Seyller thumbed her nose at the county board by hiring 14 new people without the board's permission. Seyller is her own employer. The board sets Seyller's budget but does not have the power to hire and fire Seyller's employees.
In an interview after the meeting, Seyller threatened to close her office from Columbus Day through the end of the year.
"They stop funding, we're closed Oct. 11," Seyller said at the time.
This week Seyller began displaying a sign on her office that reads, "I didn't say that" following questions from people who heard about the threatened closure. Asked about the sign Tuesday, Seyller said she was unaware she was being recorded when she made the comment.
"Without listening to it, I am 99 percent positive that I did not state that I was 'preparing' to close the office," Seyller said in an e-mail interview. "While it may seem like a minor point, the intent delivered by saying that I was preparing to close is completely different from my flippant remark. The comment was on the county cutting off my funds. It is not my decision to close and has never been my intent. To my knowledge, it would take a court order to close my office."
Similarly, if Seyller did try to close her office, Chief Judge F. Keith Brown has the ability to issue a court order forcing the office to reopen.
Brown said Wednesday he hopes Seyller and the county board can reach an agreement on the proper level of funding for the circuit court clerk's office.
"The clerk has certain statutory responsibilities in making sure the courts remain open," Brown said. "As chief judge, I will make sure that our court system is working properly, and I will do whatever is necessary."
Both the county board and Seyller have said it may be necessary to go to court to decide the funding level for her office. State statutes show Brown and his colleagues on the bench have the ability to immediately bring the argument to an end. The law gives "the majority of judges" in any county of fewer than 500,000 residents the power to determine both the number of clerks necessary to maintain the court's records and the "reasonable compensation" of those clerks.