DuPage scraps plan for referendum on abolishing recorder's office

DuPage officials have abandoned a plan to have voters decide whether the recorder's office should be merged with the clerk's office after an independent study found the proposed consolidation wouldn't save as much money as promised.

County board members on Tuesday voted 11-7 to remove a referendum question from the November ballot that would have asked voters if the recorder's office should be abolished by Nov. 30, 2022.

The binding question originally was placed on the fall ballot because of a resolution the board approved last November. But in February, the board hired MGT Consulting Group to provide an organizational assessment and benefit analysis for consolidating the two offices.

The resulting report found the proposed merger wouldn't save as much money as the November 2019 resolution claimed "unless the offices reduce head count and personnel expenditures."

"Merging the two offices in DuPage County could ultimately provide for more efficient provision of service," the report states, "but just combining the staff of the two offices will not make the operations more efficient or save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars annually."

During a meeting on Tuesday, Chairman Dan Cronin urged board members to repeal the referendum resolution.

"No real savings could be achieved at this point in time," the Elmhurst Republican said. "Therefore, putting this question on the ballot in November is not in the best interest of our county."

Still, seven board members voted against the repeal: Elizabeth Chaplin, a Downers Grove Democrat; Dawn DeSart, an Aurora Democrat; Jim Healy, a Naperville Republican; Brian Krajewski, a Downers Grove Republican; Mary FitzGerald Ozog, a Glen Ellyn Democrat; Julie Renehan, a Hinsdale Democrat; and Addison Democrat Ashley Selmon.

"I really think it is bad form to tell the voters that they're going to have a say in this question and then do an about-face," Chaplin said, "and take that decision making from our voters."

Board members also were divided when it came to deciding whether to pursue four advisory referendum questions.

After a lengthy discussion, the board agreed to put three nonbinding questions related to "current topics of interest" on the ballot. The questions read:

• "Shall DuPage County continue to consider financial support of law enforcement and public safety its top budgeting priority?"

• "In order to fight the spread of COVID-19, shall DuPage County obtain a stockpile of personal protective equipment for distribution to nursing homes, first responders, health care providers, and at-risk communities who are not otherwise able to obtain personal protective equipment?"

• "Shall DuPage County continue to fund and support training methods that decrease the risk of injury to officers and suspects for local law enforcement agencies?"

However, there wasn't enough support for a fourth referendum question that would have asked voters if the size of the county board should be reduced from 18 to 12 members.

Board members have talked about the possibility of eliminating one-third of the seats by the 2022 election, when every seat will be up because of redistricting after the 2020 census.

Supporters say eliminating six board seats would save the county more than $312,000 in annual salaries. Others argue the reduction may cause issues, including a lack of diversity on the board and increased workloads for its members.

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