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.
Office sought: Cook Clerk of the Circuit Court
Family: I am the eldest of three daughters born to Lester and Gail, nee Pitluk,Shapiro,and was raised in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Occupation: I am single, never married and have no children.
Education: I have a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Education from Northwestern University Evening Division (1980), a Master's Degree in Communication/Theatre from University of Illinois at Chicago (1985) and was certified in 1989 as an Addictions Counselor.
Civic involvement: I am in my second elected term as the Republican Committeeman of the 46th Ward, member of Buena Park Neighbors Assn.and Clarendon Park Neighbors Assn.,on the Advisory Board of Northwestern College's Law Enforcement curriculum, Past President of International Police Assn., Secretary of Italian American Police Assn., Director of Safety and Education for A.B.A.T.E. (a motorcycle rights organization), and belong to German American Police Assn., Polish American Police Assn., HISLEA (Hispanic law enforcement organization),the National Rifle Assn., Illinois State Rifle Assn., The Republican Jewish Coalition, A.I.P.A.C.,The Anti-Defamation League and Protect Our Heritage PAC.
Elected offices held: I am currently in my second term as the elected Republican Committeeman of the 46th Ward. (first elected in 2008 and again in 2012)
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No I have not. I worked in law enforcement as a Cook County Deputy Sheriff from 1979-1984 and as a Cook County Adult Probation Officer from 1984 until my retirement on 23 September 2009.
Key Issue 1
The wasteful spending, mismanagement and antiquated technology in use by the office of the Circuit Court Clerk. I will first call for a forensic audit of all of the financial records of the office, and have already consulted with a couple of accountants who will be able to assist me in that endeavor. I want to know exactly what is being spent, how it is allocated, which financial institution(s) holds the money and records and then figure out ways to curtail spending without reducing service. The computerized system in that office and throughout Cook County is built on a 1980's platform which has not been improved or upgraded to any real degree since it was instituted by then Circuit Court Clerk Aurelia Pucinski. I used that system as an Investigator with the Adult Probation Department for many years, and know that we should have the same system as is in use by the DuPage County Circuit Court Clerk's Office and others.Can anyone imagine that in 2012 carbon paper is still being used to create official duplicate court documents? We must upgrade our technology to keep abreast with those across our state and nation so that we are compatible with other systems and in the long run save millions of dollars for the already overburdened taxpayers of Cook County. Additionally, all wasteful spending will be eliminated, including the jobs of chauffeur and bodyguard. My idea of a "chauffeur" is a CTA bus driver, and I worked in every courthouse in Cook County and know how to drive to each one in my own car by myself. If I am elected I promise to refund as much money as possible to Cook County to help pay down our debt and to give back 10% of my salary as well to our coffers. Additionally, I will be present in every courthouse daily on a rotating basis so that I can work with my employees, the judges and the public. I will be the general one follows into battle rather than an absentee landlord. Elective public office is the highest honor one can aspire to, and it will be my ultimate goal to restore respect, decency and decorum to the august office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Key Issue 2
Hiring practices. Are we not tired of patronage hiring where jobs which should go to the most qualified individuals generally go to those who are least qualified? My first priority regarding hiring will be to offer all open jobs first to our returning military heroes from Iraq, Afghanistan and other places. They served our country proudly and risked their lives for our freedoms. They deserve jobs and I intend to actively seek to employ every single veteran that I am able to. I have been in contact with several military organizations to effect this promise.
Key Issue 3
I would ideally work towards depoliticizing the office of the Circuit Court Clerk and, as is done at the Appellate and Supreme Court levels, allow for the judges to determine who their Clerk will be. There is no logical reason for this office to be elective. By removing the political part from the equation I believe that the office will be run much more efficiently and with far less wasted taxpayer money.
What changes would you propose to improve the operation of the office of the clerk of the circuit court? Why?
I speak to you with over 30 years of personal experience working in the courts and a lifetime of exposure to the courts system via my late father who was an Assistant State's Attorney (partner of [Judge] Joe Wosik and [State's Attorney] Cecil Partee) at the time of my birth and later a criminal defense attorney until his death in 2003. I plan to be an active, hands-on public servant who will be present in every courthouse on a rotating basis to work with my employees and be part of a team dedicated towards serving the County honorably as "the people's candidate". It is imperative for the elected head of any office to be the general one follows into battle rather than an absentee landlord. I will be accountable and accessible,as I was when I was employed by Cook County for 33 years. There is no excuse for bad service, rude treatment or lost, misfiled, missing court files, improper record keeping or anything of that nature which is mandatory for the smooth running of that office and the courts. There is also the well-known issue of people having to wait in line for service and receving rude treatment. That will stop immediately when I take office as I intend to be working alongside everyone in the Clerk's Office to make sure every operation runs smoothly, people are treated with respect and we restore dignity to the office of the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk.
How do you propose to improve access to records by the public and transparency of office management?
I plan to have a 21st Century computerized system implemented which will allow for day of filing imaging, the ability to pay costs, fees etc. from remote locations/terminals, file motions and briefs from lawyers'offices and search court cases online without having to come to any courthouse. This same system is already in use in the DuPage County Circuit Court Clerk's office. All of this information is of public record, so ease of access to it should be simplified. I also plan to have a 24 hour published number so that I or my designates may be reached in case my/our assistance is required in any matter. There is at present no transparency whatsoever in that office, which I know from having worked in the courts for over 30 years, and by having been exposed to the system since I was a child via my late father, who was an attorney. As the old adage goes: "fish rots from the head".
What is your view of the clerk of the circuit court's web site? What, if any, changes would you recommend and how would you fund them?
The Circuit Court Clerk's website should be for informational purposes only, not public relations and promotion for the Clerk. The website is paid for by the taxpayers of Cook County and there should be links to access court cases, dispositions, other county offices with contact names for business purposes only, as well as to pay fees, fines, costs etc. We must demand that our elected officials perform their elective duties and honor their obligation to serve the people as they were elected to do.
What improvements should be made to the office's and the county's ethics rules? What is your view of whether employees should be able to donate to the clerk? What should the office's policy be on nepotism and why?
The Clerk of the Circuit Court must be actively involved on a day-to-day basis with her elected duties. No elected official should be allowed to collect from more than one pension either. As regards donations by employees of the Clerk's office to the Clerk herself, I believe that it is unacceptable and might construe possible criminal activity, especially if it is perceived that not paying could result in termination of employment, denied promotions, demotions etc. If I am elected as Cook County Circuit Court Clerk I will take an oath never to request donations for any reason from my employees. I feel strongly that taking money from any employee, even as a "campaign donation", should result in criminal prosecution. Hiring friends and family is a practice which should be prohibited, if necessary, by law unless that friend or family member is actually THE most, beyond a reasonable doubt, qualified person to do the job.Otherwise,nepotism is simply wrong from a moral standpoint. Every available job I know of will be first offered to a military veteran. They deserve no less than honorable employment in exchange for honorable service to our nation.
Can this office meet budget goals set forth by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle without compromising services? Is so, how? If not, what alternative do you propose?
I have attempted via FOIA to get a copy of the Clerk's Office budget, but have not been able to. I know that if I am elected, though, that we're going to cull well over a million dollars in perquisites (i.e. chauffeur, bodyguard, excess vehicles) from the budget which are not deserved by any elected public official. I know too that after conducting a forensic audit (which I plan to provide to all media outlets) and by being actively involved with day-to-day operations I will be able to find even more ways to save money creatively without reducing any service for the already overtaxed Cook County residents. We have a problem with too much government and too many overpaid employees at the top who actually aren't needed to do the job of serving the people. I believe in smaller, more efficient, responsible government and plan to follow through on this campaign promise if given the opportunity to become the next - and hopefully last - elected Cook County Circuit Court Clerk.