Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: Round Lake
Office sought: Lake Clerk of the Circuit Court
Family: Married with two children
Education: Bachelor of Arts, University of Illinois Chicago Juris Doctorate, The John Marshall Law School
Civic involvement: Chairman of the Lake County Community Development Commission Serving from 1996-2011 President of the Board of Directors of the Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center Foundation Volunteer Firefighter/Paramedic /Lieutenant, Greater Round Lake Area Fire Protection District Fox Lake-Round Lake Area Rotary Club Member Loyal Order of the Moose Member
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
My Number 1 campaign issue is to bring Transparency and Accountability to the Circuit Clerk's Office.
For instance, the Circuit Clerk manages two funds for the sole purpose of improving the record keeping functions of the office.
These funds take in approximately $2 million annually.
However, the Clerk's record keeping functions rely on an outdated legacy mainframe system.
Where are these millions of dollars in upgrades'
Why did the current administration enter into a $2.3 million no-bid contract for an add-on to this outdated system rather than get proposals/bids on replacing the old system?
Especially when this add-on system does not have the approval of the Court and will not be approved as the Chief Judge advised the County Board several months ago.
Bottom line: Public dollars have been wasted.
Once elected, I promise to spend every dollar with the upmost care and responsibility.
Key Issue 2
My number 2 campaign issue is Access to Justice. Lake County is the third largest county in this state and yet there is still no access to even basic court information online or the ability to pay fines online.
These basic functions are currently available in approximately 80 of the 102 counties in this state.
It is shameful that we do not have this level of access even though the office brings in approximately $2 million annually to support these efforts.
Furthermore, any online/remote access created must be made available equally to all users and it must be authorized by the Court.
It must not be granted to just a hand-picked, select group of users.
The current administration got caught doing just that late last year and it was immediately ordered to cease and desist all of its unauthorized remote access.
In addition, the office needs to increase the level of services offered at each of its branch locations.
Once elected, I will modernize the entire system to ensure that the citizens of Lake County receive the greatest level of access available in a secure, user-friendly system that has the approval of the Court.
Key Issue 3
My Number 3 campaign issue is Customer Service.
The Clerk's office should treat all of its users (Plaintiffs, Defendants, Attorneys, Judges, etc.) like customers by providing needed information in a cooperative, competent and timely manner. For most court users, dealing with the staff in the Circuit Clerk's Office is their only contact with the judicial system.
As a result, these staff members become the face of the court and impact the administration of justice.
Once elected, I will make customer service a top priority in my administration to ensure that the basic principle of access to justice is achieved to the highest standard.
How can the clerk's office improve public access to court documents and other court information? Be specific.
Public access to court documents and other court information can be greatly improved in several areas.
First, digital scanning of all filed documents is a key component in improved access. Digital scanning will enable users the ability to retrieve documents more efficiently and it will support future online/remote access.
Currently, the only way to retrieve documents is to drive to downtown Waukegan and go through several labor intensive, manual steps.
The case management system would need to be replaced to support these functions.
Second, the system needs to be upgraded to allow for the retrieval of basic court information online, and to allow other users the ability to remotely access court files and docket information.
Third, improved access would also include expanding the manner, method and times individuals would be allowed to pay down their court obligations.
Examples include the ability to pay online, accepting personal checks and accepting payments at any branch location regardless of where the court date originated.
Improved access would also include the installation of electronic viewing stations at all branch locations to enable users that do not have internet access the ability to view court files from a location more convenient to them.
Moreover, improved access would also include allowing the citizens of Lake County the ability to perform the majority of clerk related functions at all branch locations.
This would include allowing individuals to file most court documents, regardless of case type, at any of the branch sites.
Currently, only traffic matters and mortgage foreclosures are handled at locations other than downtown Waukegan.
How can the clerk's office best participate in the discussion of construction of new court facilities'
The Clerk must be an active participant in all levels of discussion concerning the construction of new court facilities. Moreover, the Clerk must have the ability to fully understand their current business practices and identify how those practices will match up to the physical characteristics of the new space.
In addition, the Clerk must ensure that all levels of the Clerk staff have active engagement in the process to ensure that there is opportunity to identify and develop new efficiencies for their business practices.
What improvements can be made in the efficiency of operations in the office in light of budget cutbacks' Be specific.
Modernizing and reorganizing the Clerk's Office will be the key to efficiency especially in light of budget shortfalls.
Implementation of any modernization effort (digital scanning, e-filing, file tracking etc.) will immediately improve efficiency because an assessment of current business practices will be performed to identify processes that are either unnecessary or inefficient.
In addition to the assessment of business processes, the office's organizational structure will also undergo a full reassessment to ensure that the office is properly positioned to provide the highest quality of service to the judiciary and the public; is prepared to accommodate future demand from caseload growth and; that it is able to withstand any future budgetary challenges.
Efficiency can also be improved by expanding the range of functions that can be performed at all of the Clerk's branch locations.
Not only does this immediately increase efficiency, but it adds a layer of accountability to the citizens of Lake County by demonstrating that use of public facilities built with taxpayer dollars is being optimized.
Outgoing clerk Sally Coffelt has had family members on the payroll. What is your view on hiring relatives and friends' If elected, would you consider having all employees reapply for their jobs' Why or why not?
Nepotism will not be tolerated under any circumstance.
First let me say that when elected, I will follow the law when it comes to assessing the current employees.
As an attorney representing the government, I understand the pitfalls of terminating employees for reasons other than their employment skills, performance and work ethic. All current employees will be assessed in their current positions and that assessment will include: qualifications; skills and their past and present performance levels. Moreover, it is difficult to determine which current employees are relatives and friends and still follow the law.
Once elected, I will ensure that all future new hires will be assessed and evaluated based upon their qualifications, experience and other lawful criteria.
Given that the clerk's computer system doesn't allow a visitor to look up a case with just a last name, what should be done to fund a more user-friendly system? How would you make that happen? If not, why not?
The entire case management system must be modernized.
Currently, funding for the court computer system already exists in the form of statutorily authorized fees.
More importantly, one of these fees was just recently increased from $7 to $12 per assessment.
Since funding exists, the next step would include developing a team that will collaborate on the planning, requirements and design of a new system that will not only bring the Clerk's technology level up to date, but will be capable of supporting future technological advancements and will create a user-friendly environment.
To fully optimize the current money available funding, we will solicit proposals from multiple vendors to ensure that a quality system will be delivered to the citizens of Lake County in a transparent and accountable manner.