Worker morale, spending at issue in Lake County court clerk race

 
 
Updated 10/20/2016 10:46 AM
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  • Republican Keith Brin and Democrat Erin Cartwright Weinstein are candidates for Lake County circuit court clerk.

    Republican Keith Brin and Democrat Erin Cartwright Weinstein are candidates for Lake County circuit court clerk.

  • Incumbent Republican Keith Brin, left, and Democrat Erin Cartwright Weinstein are candidates for Lake County circuit court clerk. They discussed issues at a Daily Herald editorial board joint interview this week.

      Incumbent Republican Keith Brin, left, and Democrat Erin Cartwright Weinstein are candidates for Lake County circuit court clerk. They discussed issues at a Daily Herald editorial board joint interview this week. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

Republican Lake County Circuit Court Clerk Keith Brin is fending off claims about poor employee morale and unnecessary spending made by his Democratic challenger in the November election.

Brin will face Erin Cartwright Weinstein in the Nov. 8 election. Brin is seeking his second 4-year term to the office that handles criminal and civil court filings, traffic ticket payments, passport issuance and other tasks.

Employee morale and expenses arose as issues when Brin and Weinstein attended a Daily Herald editorial board joint interview this week.

Brin, of Highland Park, denied there are morale problems as alleged by his opponent and said he's had to fire some workers in an effort to make the office run better. He said his decisions have not always been popular with employees, but his responsibility is to Lake County taxpayers.

"I've had to make quite a few changes," said Brin, who won the circuit court clerk job in 2012. "To me, part of the reason I was elected was to be a leader of the office. And a lot of times, when you're changing the culture of an office and changing the way the office operates -- whether it's extending services or bringing new technology -- there are people who are going to resist that change."

Weinstein, a family law attorney the past 12 years and former Lake County prosecutor who lives in Gurnee, is making her first attempt at public office.

She said part of her plan to address what she contends is poor office morale would be a proper training program for all employees. The office culture hinders productivity of front-line clerks and others, she added.

"They're feeling that they're walking on eggshells in that office all the time," Weinstein said, "and they feel watched all the time."

Weinstein disputed Brin's position that he's reduced annual office spending since 2012. She also contends that the office has overspent on a technology consultant who hasn't delivered and that it is wasting money defending lawsuits filed by unfairly dismissed workers.

Brin said there has been nothing wrong with his technology spending. He said the examples of proper technology expenses by his office include creating a now-available mobile device application and pending improvements, such as a data exchange system with state offices and other government entities.

As for money used to defend lawsuits filed by former workers, Brin said most of what he termed politically motivated complaints have surfaced this year.

Brin, who said the dismissals were justified, did not have a tally of the expenses for outside legal assistance needed for the civil cases.

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