Transparency at issue in Lake County court clerk's race

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

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

 
 
Posted11/4/2016 5:45 AM

How much openness exists in the Lake County circuit court clerk's office is up for debate by the two candidates seeking the office in next week's election.

Republican incumbent Keith Brin and Democratic challenger Erin Cartwright Weinstein are seeking a 4-year term in Tuesday's election. The office handles criminal and civil court filings, traffic ticket payments, passport issuance and other tasks.

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Weinstein and Brin have locked horns on several issues in the campaign. Transparency in the circuit court clerk's office is another bone of contention for them.

Brin said he's a believer in openness because that's the only way to hold government officials accountable.

"This is one of the key reasons why, after being elected, I revamped our website to make it more user-friendly," he said.

However, Weinstein contends the office lacks transparency and that she would take steps to make more information available to the public. She said taxpayers cannot find information, such as outside attorney expenses, on the clerk's website.

"This is a public office and requires transparency," she said.

Brin's office spending became an issue at a debate last month hosted by the Lake of Women Voters' Lake Forest and Lake Bluff branch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Weinstein criticized Brin for spending $32,000 on food and travel in the roughly four years he's been in office. Brin countered that the expenses were legitimate and sometimes occurred when attorneys were at his office for lunch-hour business meetings.

Brin, 44, of Highland Park won the circuit court clerk job in 2012. Weinstein, 43, 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.

As for donations, Brin has received $27,064 since Sept. 30 for the hotly contested race, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's database. Brin's total campaign kitty has grown to $55,034.

Brin's most recent top donations include $8,900 from Richard Uihlein, a Lake Forest resident and president of the Uline packaging supply company in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and $7,554 from the Lesser, Lutrey, Pasquesi and Howe law firm in Lake Forest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Weinstein has gained $32,000 since Sept. 30, according to the statewide watchdog organization. Her campaign bank account has reached $40,758.

Her most recent top contributions included $11,500 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union and $10,500 she donated to her campaign, according to the nonprofit political reform group.

Each candidate has accused the other of being beholden to campaign contributors.

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