DuPage County board member wants voters to decide fate of recorder's office
DuPage officials plan to study whether the recorder's office should be merged with the county clerk's office.
But one county board member says she already wants the consolidation idea taken to voters, with or without a study.
Elizabeth Chaplin is calling for a binding question about the proposed merger to appear on the March primary election ballot. The full board is expected to discuss Chaplin's plan during its Oct. 8 meeting.
"If the voters want to keep the recorder's office, great," the Downers Grove Democrat said. "If they don't want the recorder's office, it should be eliminated. But we should let the people decide."
Chaplin is pushing for a referendum even though board Chairman Dan Cronin last week unveiled a proposed budget for fiscal 2020 that includes funding for a study "to examine whether savings could be realized" by merging the two offices.
"It is only wise to go forward with consolidation if there are significant benefits to taxpayers and, most importantly, if savings can be realized," Cronin said. "Before we engage the voters on this question, I think it's essential to develop information on their behalf and to lay out a clear choice."
Chaplin said she doesn't believe DuPage needs a study because it can learn from counties that already have eliminated their recorder's offices.
"The other counties that don't have a recorder's office are working fine," she said. "So let's look to them and ask them what they did."
Meanwhile, she says, the time is right to eliminate the office because longtime Recorder Fred Bucholz is planning to retire after his four terms in office. If a ballot measure is approved in March, the consolidation could take effect in December 2020.
County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek, meanwhile, has said she is "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 approve a merger. The Glen Ellyn Democrat oversaw one consolidation earlier this year when her office merged with the DuPage Election Commission.
"If we work on this now," Chaplin said, "there could be a transition plan in place to ensure things go smoothly."
Chaplin must convince county board members to agree to put the question on the ballot.
Several members last week said they want the county to do a study first.
One of them, Tim Elliott, said consolidations need to be done "the right way."
The Glen Ellyn Republican said the recorder's office provides "a critical function," and the county board must make sure that function "is continued seamlessly."
"The track record of this county on these consolidations has been one of thoughtful and analytical consolidation," Elliott said. "So I support the suggestion to have a study done on this."
He said the analysis will help everyone understand the benefits of merging the recorder's office and the county clerk's office.
"Consolidation for the sake of consolidation is senseless," Elliott said. "There have to be either meaningful tax savings or meaningful operational or transparency benefits from doing this."
Board member Sam Tornatore questioned whether it's a good idea to pursue a ballot measure to eliminate the recorder's office at the same time there's a race to fill the recorder seat.
"If this were to be on the ballot," the Roselle Republican said, "is it going to preclude people from running for that office because they're concerned that there won't be an office to serve in?"