Kane County officials on Wednesday authorized a study of the information technology staffing of the circuit court clerk, the state's attorney, court services and the public defender, with an eye to combining the workers into one centralized team.
The study comes as the county's judicial and public safety technology commission proceeds with figuring out how to upgrade and integrate the computer systems that manage the offices' records, including court files, probation reports, arrest reports and more.
"I think this is a good baseline," said county board member Phil Lewis, a member of the commission.
And new Circuit Court Clerk Thomas Hartwell said he favored the idea.
Roger Fahnestock, the director of the county's information technologies department, proposed the study.
Fahnestock's department provides technical support to the offices involved for everything but the court-records management system, JANO Clericus Magnus.
The clerk's office retained control of support for that, because former Clerk Deb Seyller was concerned about the security of personal information contained in the court records.
However, Seyller canceled the maintenance contract with JANO in 2006, saying it was a poor system to begin with and that the patches done made things worse.
Officials from JANO disputed that, saying Seyller's staff had "made a ton of changes" to the software that caused problems -- so many that the president of the company said it really wasn't a JANO system anymore.
Fahnestock outlined a proposal in which each department would have at least one "go-to" IT worker assigned to it, with the sheriff's department and the clerk's office having more. Those workers could be assigned duties in other judicial and public safety offices if there was an unexpected need.
But before that happens, Fahnestock said, he needs to know exactly what the current workers are doing, what they are being paid, what kind of software support they give, what the offices are missing, and even current staffing levels. He estimates he can have a study done within 45 days.
He also said that with a new court-records management system and routine maintenance, the clerk's office may find it needs fewer IT workers.
The commission was created as part of a settlement in a lawsuit brought by Seyller against the county board.
Sheriff Pat Perez eliminated the separate IT staff in the sheriff's office when he took office and has been working through the county's IT department instead.
"I can't say enough good about Information Technology," he told the committee, when asked about the relationship. "It's been outstanding."
One advantage to going with the rest of the county departments is in purchasing power, he said.