Theresa Barreiro: Candidate profile, Kane County Circuit Clerk
Four years after winning a second term as Kane County Circuit Court Clerk in 2016, incumbent Republican Thomas Hartwell is facing a challenge from Democratic county board member Theresa Barreiro.
Hartwell, an attorney and former county board member from Elgin, has cited his experience and success in digitizing county court as reasons he is the best candidate for the post.
However, Barreiro, an Aurora resident, has been critical of computer systems problems in the circuit clerk's office and believes it should do more to help people burdened by court fees and costs.
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A: As Circuit Clerk I would like to make the office a model for other offices to aspire to. I will work hard to collaborate with judicial, legal and government partners to increase the performance of the office.
Q: If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A: I would like the opportunity to work with the staff to reach a higher level of performance by serving as a full-time circuit clerk. I would like to implement staff meetings, focus groups, surveys, in order to identify areas for system improvements. I will have an open-door policy to be accessible to staff, and the public. My goal is to have other circuit clerk offices look at the Kane County Circuit Clerk's Office as a place to aspire to.
Q: Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the clerk of the circuit court's office. Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?
A: Yes. The current computer systems which were purchased years prior, are not integrated, and as a result are causing great inefficiencies. We need to invest in outside expertise to address these issues. The failure for the system to work properly is causing staff to work inefficiently and preventing better service to the public. Once the system is working properly, staff should be trained in order to fully utilize all of its capabilities. Currently, we are utilizing virtual courts. This should be a continued practice in the courts where it is feasible. Taking a day off of work to attend court presents a hardship that could lead to job loss.
Q: Name one concrete program you'll create or personnel move you'll make to improve efficiency in the office or make it more successful. Explain how it will be funded and how you will overcome any obstacles to initiating it.
A: I will be the first one in the office and the last one to leave. I will be available day in and day out to assist the staff with the operations of the circuit clerk's office.
Q: Describe your position on transparency in the office and the ease of access to records by the public. If you believe improvements are needed, what are they and how would you go about achieving them?
A: The Freedom of Information Act is a vehicle for the public to request public information. By becoming more transparent we become more efficient with staff time. For example, by posting a running list of submitted FOIA requests and their disposition. The public can request similar FOIA's or can have access to these approved FOIA's. Frequently requested information should be posted on the website. This is a win-win for the public and the staff.
Q: There are many court fees imposed upon those who go through the county's legal system. Some of those fees help fund the operations of the circuit clerk's office. Do you believe those fees are appropriate, or do they create inequalities in accessing justice for those with less financial means?
A: Social equity is an issue that needs to be addressed at all levels of government including the circuit clerk's office. Not everyone has the same means to pay their court fees. I propose working with the state's attorney's office for alternatives for individuals on a case-by-case basis. Potential programs could include, reduction of fees for community service and upon successful completion of court ordered programs. A much needed service is to provide access to resources to assist financially stressed individuals. This information can be provided at the circuit clerk's office along with all correspondence.
Q: What is the appropriate time commitment for the circuit court clerk's duties? Do you believe it would be appropriate for the clerk to have another outside job while serving in the office?
A: The circuit clerk's office is a full-time position. Working another outside job should be prohibited. In order for the office to reach a higher level of performance it requires a full-time circuit clerk. 1. The leadership is leading by example, the work ethic of the circuit clerk trickles down to staff. 2. The work ethic of the circuit clerk impacts the relationship with the 16th Judicial Court. 3. A good work ethic of the circuit clerk is demanded by the residents of Kane County.