Mary Ellen Vanderventer: Candidate Profile
Lake Recorder of Deeds
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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.
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Lake Recorder of Deeds
Family: Married 22 years to Don Vanderventer, Jr
Occupation: Lake County Recorder of Deeds
Education: Attended Holy Child High School & Columbia College, Chicago
Civic involvement: United Way Board Member (former) St. Martin de Porres High School founding Board Member Salvation Army Board Member (former) Exchange Club Illinois Association of County Clerks & Recorders National Association of County Officials Metro County Recorder's Association
Elected offices held: Lake County Recorder of Deeds. Elected in 1996
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: no
Key Issue 1
Since 1996, I have been honored to receive the endorsement of the Daily Herald. I hope to earn your endorsement once again. Seeking my 5th term, it has been an honor to serve as the Lake County Recorder for the past 16 years. During that time, my office has worked diligently to transform the office into a modern, responsive and friendly operation. We have utilized available technology, while also keeping the old-fashioned traditions of the office alive. We continue to personally answer each and every phone call (no menus or buttons to push!). Customers may do business with us in person, by phone, fax or by using email and the Internet 24/7. Over the last 5 years, we have reduced expenses by 25% while increasing accessibility and offering the best business practices for our customers. It is our commitment to provide the best customer service possible. All of our computer upgrades and projects were created and funded using the fees collected in the recording process. No taxes are collected or used in the operation of the Recorder?s office!
Key Issue 2
Protecting our taxpayers? investments is our top priority. Our aggressive campaign against mortgage fraud continues with our daily audit cards. I am proud to say that in 2005, the Lake County Recorder?s office was the first office in the state to immediately notify homeowners of a change in ownership, when a Quit Claim Deed is used. The Quit Claim deed is the form most commonly used by the bad guys. Now, when a Quit Claim deed is submitted for recording in Lake County, the next day a post card is mailed to the homeowner alerting them of a title change. Over the years, the response has been phenomenal. The Lake County Recorder?s office also spearheaded legislation that was passed in 2006 requiring that all deeds be notarized before they are accepted for recording. We have also installed video cameras at our customer counters. In 2009, we completed a project to redact all Social Security numbers in our library of nearly 7 million documents.
Key Issue 3
For 16 years we have worked hard to balance the needs of our professional clients and customers, while mindful of our job to protect the privacy of regular citizens. And it?s worked! We are proud of the Lake County Recorder?s website. By using the different links on our website, you are able to access common forms, taxpayer and tax bill information, see aerial views of property and research the last sale amounts & assessed value for specific property. As the keeper of history, our job is to make your job easier.
Should the recorder of deeds office be merged with the Lake County clerk?s office, as has been done elsewhere in Illinois?
In Illinois, only 23 counties have a population over 60,000 which qualify them to have a separate Recorder?s office. Lake County has a population of over 700,000 and we are the 3rd largest county in the state. I do not support, and there is no county board effort to merge the Recorder?s office with any other county office. There is not a single task performed in the Recorder?s office that is duplicated by any other government office. To compare the Lake County Recorder?s office with other rural counties is very misleading. The largest counties in Illinois have separate Recorder?s offices because of the huge volume of work. Merging this office is a misplaced effort and an effort that will not save any money. Every single function must be performed in accordance with state statute. We are also one of the highest revenue producers for the county. The money collected is deposited into the General Fund and distributed by the county board to provide services to Lake County residents, including police protection and health care options. We are extremely frugal and transparent. The Recorder?s office brings in 7 times the revenue of the County Clerk?s office. Having served as Elections Administrator for 10 years, I?m flattered that my opponent thinks the Recorder?s office could absorb the duties of the County Clerk?s office. And it might make sense in terms of the low revenue from the Clerk?s office, but with over 400,000 registered voters, and a population of over 700,000 the sheer volume of work in both offices speaks for itself. All of the other counties that my opponent refers to have less than 65,000 voters, with populations just over 150,000. The Recorder?s office is here to protect your biggest investment and keep a watchful eye on nearly 7 million records that are used daily in real estate, banking and construction projects. For over 160 years this office has kept your public records accurate, safe and secure.
What, if any, new ethics-related rules are needed for the recorder?s office?
The Recorder?s office is completely transparent and has many ?checks and balances? in our daily business routine. Financial deposits are made daily in the Treasurer?s office and the Lake County Finance Department keeps a watchful eye on our revenue and expenses. All personnel matters are handled through the Lake County Human Resources Department. Elected officials have the ability to make personnel decisions on their own, however for 16 years I have followed county policy and deferred to our Human Resources department for all hires and personnel issues. A Lake County Ethics Ordinance was also adopted in 2004 for all elected officials, department heads and employees to follow. Technology advancements and the internet have certainly changed the availability of information. Additional legislation is needed to allow for balance between the protection of the taxpayer/property owner and the need for access by the real estate and financial professions. This is a tough balance to keep. Many counties allow unrestricted and unlimited access to sensitive information contained in documents. This unlimited access poses a threat to many property owners, especially those in the law enforcement and judicial professions. Once information is available on the public internet, it is difficult to keep the access limited. We do our best everyday and have taken extra steps to protect private information.
What technology upgrades are needed in the office and how would you pay for them?
Illinois state statute provides that $10 from every recording be placed in the Recorder?s Automation Fund to specifically improve the capabilities of the office through technology. This Fund may not be used by anyone else or for anything else. Since 2007, over 2000 professional firms &/or businesses have taken advantage of our subscription based, user-friendly, Online Internet Access product, which allows companies to conduct business with our office 24/7, from the convenience of their office or home. In 2011, we introduced PayPal, which allows subscribers to control their own accounts and payments. The feedback from our clients has been great and the general public appreciates not having their documents put on the Internet for free, and for all to see. Through legislation spearheaded by Lake County, Veteran?s paperwork (commonly known as DD214?s) have also been protected and removed from the public rolls. In 2008 we began accepting electronic recordings (eRecording). Today, 20% of our recordings are electronically recorded. eRecordings are instantly recorded, indexed, archived and made available to the public that same day. We now partner with 3 nationally recognized companies. The Recorder?s office has worked hard to ?Go Green!? Electronic recordings have eliminated thousands of reams of paper. By simply using email, 90% of our clients now receive ?paperless? statements. In 2011 we initiated ?paperless? receipts which are faster, free and have saved thousands of dollars in postage.
What changes would you propose to improve the operation of the office of recorder of deeds? Why?
Standardization of documents would help the operation of the Recorder?s office. Unlike car titles in Illinois, a title to your home comes in many different shapes and sizes. The variety makes it difficult to develop a standard, automated indexing process. If legislation required a specific format, technology could help speed up the indexing process while improving accuracy. As we have progressed from beautiful hand written ledgers to electronic recordings, so have the ?tools? progressed to index & locate documents. Today?s challenge is to make sure that searchers are able to navigate the variety of tools needed to conduct their searches through the millions of recordings. Making searching easier for the non-professional is an on-going, educational process. Improving the operation of the Recorder?s office also means partnering with other county departments. Most recently we were awarded the Seven Seals Award for meritorious leadership in support of those who serve America in the National Guard and Reserves. The Recorder?s Office sorted, scanned, indexed and filed more than 9,000 military records of Lake County?s men and women soldiers. All of our projects are created and funded using the statutory fees collected in the recording process. No taxes are collected or used in the operation of the Recorder?s office!
How would you go about improving government transparency and ease of use of records for the public?
The Recorder?s website is one of the most transparent websites of elected officials in Illinois and it is a wealth of information. We clearly post our yearly budgets and offer detailed information regarding the Freedom of Information Act. Access to searching our records is easy! All of our 7 million documents have been scanned and are available for viewing in our office and on our website. To use our website, just find the subscription that best works for you. Subscriptions start at $5.00 (a one-day subscription for the one-time user) and include 30-day, 6-month and one year plans. This product is an extension of our office. All tiers include unlimited searching and viewing of recorded documents. Other customers enjoy visiting our office and paging through the old books that are kept onsite. For 14 years I have hosted the Lake County Recorder?s Cable TV Show entitled ?Doing Good Deeds for You.? Filmed quarterly, the response has been terrific. Topics have included Reverse Mortgages, Veteran?s information, answers to our most frequently asked questions and most recently a show dedicated to our website. If you are not a Comcast subscriber, you may access any of the shows in our video library through our website. In 2008, we initiated a monthly email newsletter which is sent to our clients, all local governments and anyone else who might be interested. We answer questions, clarify new legislation and highlight information for recording and accessing documents.
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