DuPage County voters to decide if recorder's office should be eliminated
DuPage voters will decide next fall whether the recorder's office should be merged with the county clerk's office in two years.
But at least one county board member wanted the referendum question -- and the proposed consolidation -- to come sooner.
Elizabeth Chaplin pushed for a resolution that would have put the binding question about the merger on the March primary election ballot. The Downers Grove Democrat also wanted the transition, if approved, to take effect next December.
On Tuesday, however, the board voted 11-7 to support another resolution that places the question on the general election ballot next November. That resolution, proposed by board member Jim Healy, calls for the consolidation to occur by Nov. 30, 2022.
Healy cited several reasons, including that voter turnout will be high during the presidential election.
"It makes more sense to have it in November where more people will vote," the Naperville Republican said. "I think it makes more sense to give two years (to do the transition)."
Several board members said the plan also gives DuPage time to have an independent study done to determine whether the proposed merger would benefit the taxpayers.
"I believe we have to make data-driven decisions," board member Tim Elliott said.
The Glen Ellyn Republican said the analysis will help everyone understand the benefits of merging the offices.
"I'd like to understand what the savings might be," he said. "I think the voters would like to understand what the savings might be."
But Chaplin says DuPage doesn't need a study because it can learn from counties that already have eliminated their recorder's offices.
"Do we need a study to tell elected members how to do their job?" Chaplin said. "We're not talking rocket science here."
She said the question is whether DuPage wants to save money by eliminating an elected office that isn't mandated by the state constitution.
Chaplin and six other board members voted against Healy's resolution. The others who voted "no" are Dawn DeSart, an Aurora Democrat; Pete DiCianni, an Elmhurst Republican; Mary FitzGerald Ozog, a Glen Ellyn Democrat; Julie Renehan, a Hinsdale Democrat; Sheila Rutledge, a West Chicago Democrat; and Carol Stream Republican Jim Zay.
Most of them argued that next December would have been the best time to eliminate the office because that's when longtime Recorder Fred Bucholz is planning to retire after his four terms in office.
"Why elect a lame duck recorder with no experience for half a term?" DeSart said. "How does that even make sense?"
County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek 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.
Adam Johnson, the chief deputy clerk, told board members that 2020 is the ideal time to carry out a consolidation "and ensure that current service levels are maintained."
"By contrast, there is no certainty of what to expect regarding what the state of the recorder's office might be at some future date of consolidation," Johnson said.
DiCianni and Zay, meanwhile, questioned whether a ballot question next year is a good idea.
"I don't think this is the right way to get rid of this office," said Zay, adding that the recorder's office plays an important role in the county.