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updated: 11/24/2011 8:47 AM

Kane County tackles $12.6 million computer problem

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  • Chief Judge F. Keith Brown

      Chief Judge F. Keith Brown

 
 

Kane County officials have released information they hope will allow everyone to determine for themselves how the local courts ended up with a multimillion-dollar computer system that wastes money and creates public safety gaps.

Judicial and Public Safety Committee members said they hope with all the information out, the county can get on with the business of purchasing a replacement computer system that may cost as much as $12.6 million. That process recently stalled in a blame game and in attempts to examine the mistakes of the past so they are not repeated.

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The new information is contained in a 2-inch thick comprehensive history of meeting minutes showing the process used to select the current system, JANO Justice Systems, going back to 1997.

Chief Judge F. Keith Brown reviewed the minutes and discussed them with County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay and Circuit Court Clerk Deb Seyller.

"I was very concerned about some of the rhetoric," Brown said of recent finger pointing. McConnaughay has said Seyller is solely responsible for selecting the faulty system. Seyller responded by painting McConnaughay as a power-hungry politician out to smear her to gain control over the circuit clerk's office.

Brown's own review of the history of JANO shows both Seyller and the county board, which McConnaughay was a member of, share blame for the flawed system. Court officials have said the case management system sometimes causes risky delays in circulating orders of protection to law enforcement.

Seyller did co-chair the committee that selected the current system. Her fellow co-chair was Caryl Van Overmeiren, who recently resigned as Kane County's Metra board representative following pressure from McConnaughay. Van Overmeiren did not respond to an interview request.

The Seyller/Van Overmeiren committee made reports on the activities of their committee to the county board. Brown, however, said it appears the county board -- and even the others from the judicial system on the committee -- didn't pay much attention to what was going on. Indeed, it was several months after Seyller contracted with JANO to implement the current system in 2000 that the chairman of the county board's Judicial and Public Safety Committee realized Seyller entered into that contract with no prior review by the state's attorney or county board. It wasn't until the end of 2001 that the full county board entered into an agreement with JANO for a computer system that attempted to tie in the functions of Seyller's office with the rest of the judicial system.

"I personally feel that much of the discussion of how we got JANO has taken our focus off what is the real issue, which is the current system is not appropriate for our needs," Brown said. "After reviewing these documents, it's clear there was no one who stood up and rejected JANO. ... JANO was good for what we needed at the time. We need to move on."

In doing so, the county will have a new standing Judicial and Public Safety Technology Commission. It will include county board members, the county board chairman, members of the court system, the sheriff, circuit clerk and an at-large public representative.

The creation of the commission doesn't mean all officials who will use the new system are on the same page.

Seyller has said she's going to follow the guidelines of the legal settlement she recently reached in a lawsuit with the county board. That means she plans on doing her own request of proposals on the portion of the computer system her office will use. She's also said she'll keep maintenance of that portion of the system under the control of her office -- rather than allowing the county technology department to take over -- because of security concerns regarding personal information in case files.

Board members have said they'd like those issues to be resolved before moving forward with a such a large expense.

"This is larger than any one office or stakeholder," Judicial and Public Safety Committee Chairman Mark Davoust said this week. "This has to be approached with an integrated perspective."

If Seyller runs her own request for proposals and contracts for her portion of the system, she's not eligible for countywide funds that will pay for the bulk of the project, Brown said. As far as the ongoing system maintenance, Brown is not taking a position on that issue.

"I think there is recognition we all have to cooperate because when one of us decides not to cooperate, nothing gets accomplished," Brown said. "(Seyller) has assured me she will give full cooperation to that process as long as it follows the settlement."

The first meeting of the new commission has not been scheduled.

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