DuPage board member wants ballot question on abolishing recorder's office

A county board member wants to let voters decide this spring whether to eliminate the DuPage recorder's office and merge its duties with the county clerk's office.

Downers Grove Democrat Elizabeth Chaplin says she would like to see the question on the March primary election ballot so the consolidation could take effect in November 2020.

The time is right, she said, because longtime Recorder Fred Bucholz is planning to retire after four terms.

"It would be a perfect transition into the clerk's office," Chaplin said.

County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek oversaw one consolidation earlier this year when her office merged with the DuPage Election Commission.

The first-term clerk says she's "willing and able" to take on the responsibilities of the recorder's office - which is the custodian of all the county's land records - if voters approved Chaplin's plan.

"In the event of a consolidation, my plan would be to retain the recorder's existing staff," Kaczmarek said, "just as I retained all employees I inherited in both the clerk's office and election commission."

The Glen Ellyn Democrat says she believes there would be sufficient time between a March referendum vote and a December consolidation date "to work out the details of an implementation plan to ensure a successful transition."

But first, county board members must agree to put the question on the ballot.

Chaplin said she wants the board to begin discussing the issue as soon as this month.

Chairman Dan Cronin, who has talked previously about consolidating the recorder's office, said he's all for examining the issue. However, he says a study of the potential merger should be conducted before the board takes a vote on a possible ballot question.

"We're not going to merge the recorder's office just for political purposes," the Oak Brook Republican said. "I want to do it for genuine good government reasons."

He said a study would determine if the merger would save the county money, reduce its head count and improve transparency and accountability.

"In every other instance where we did a merger of this kind, we did homework first," he said. "We did a study, and we got some sense of where we could realize efficiencies."

Chaplin said she doesn't believe a study is necessary, especially since there's only a handful of counties in Illinois that still have a separate recorder's office. She said officials already know the county will save money by eliminating the recorder's salary.

"We're supposedly the leaders in consolidation," Chaplin said. "This goes along with our ACT (Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency) Initiative."

Still, Cronin said there needs to be "a nonpartisan, objective analysis" of the pros and cons of abolishing the recorder's office. He also stressed Bucholz should be part of the conversation.

"Let's do it the right way," he said. "We've got work to do before we get to the point of putting the question on the ballot."

Jean Kaczmarek
Dan Cronin
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