DuPage County Board members disagree on consolidation study

An independent study will examine whether DuPage County taxpayers would benefit from a proposal to eliminate the recorder of deeds office.

But county board members are divided on whether the study should happen before or after voters consider the consolidation idea during the November general election.

The board voted 9-7 this week to hire MGT Consulting Group to provide an organizational assessment and benefit analysis for consolidating the county clerk and county recorder's offices. The company, which has a regional office in Northfield, will be paid $32,600 to do the study.

Board member Sadia Covert, who voted in favor of the contract, said the study will provide useful information before voters decide in November if the recorder's office should be abolished. If the ballot question is approved, the duties of the recorder's office would be merged with the county clerk's office by Nov. 30, 2022.

"We cannot go into this consolidation process blindfolded," the Naperville Democrat said. "It's responsible to have a study and fully know what we're getting into before we consolidate."

However, seven board members voted against the expenditure: Mary FitzGerald Ozog, a Glen Ellyn Democrat; Julie Renehan, a Hinsdale Democrat; Sheila Rutledge, a West Chicago Democrat; Sam Tornatore, a Roselle Republican; Elizabeth Chaplin, a Downers Grove Democrat; Dawn DeSart, an Aurora Democrat; and Downers Grove Republican Brian Krajewski.

DeSart said the study should happen after voters weigh in on the consolidation proposal.

"Why do a feasibility study now when we're asking voters in November if we should even do this?" DeSart said. "If the voters say, 'No, do not merge,' then we're wasting $32,600."

Board member Tim Elliott, who supported the contract, says the analysis will help everyone understand the benefits of merging the offices.

"Let's get the information," the Glen Ellyn Republican said. "It's going to be good, bad or neutral, but we'll be better armed than we are now. And our voters are going to be better armed than they are now to make a really important decision in November."

Some have argued DuPage doesn't need a study because it can learn from counties that already have eliminated their recorder's offices.

Meanwhile, 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.

Kaczmarek, a Glen Ellyn Democrat, oversaw one consolidation last year when her office merged with the DuPage Election Commission.

But board member Robert Larsen says there were issues with that merger.

"We just heard a couple weeks ago from the clerk's office that the difficult transition of the election commission into the clerk's office was so stressful that we had to hand out $100,000 in bonuses to those members of the clerk's staff last year to do this," the Wheaton Republican said.

He said the reason to do the study is to provide information to the board and voters about "this important decision."

"It's not a decision that should be rushed," Larsen said.

Still, Tornatore said it's possible the results of the study won't sway voters in November.

"I'm not sure what the study is going to do," Tornatore said. "It's not going to change anybody's mind."

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