Iris Martinez: Candidate profile, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk
Democrat Iris Martinez, a state senator from Chicago, is running against Republican Barbara Bellar, a doctor and attorney from Burr Ridge, in the race for Cook County Circuit Court clerk to replace incumbent Dorothy Brown.
Martinez has a campaign website at irisforclerk.com, Bellar does not as yet have a website.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates to respond to a series of questions. Here are Martinez's responses. Bellar did not respond.
Q. Should there be a "housecleaning" in the court clerk's office, and if so, how deep should it go? Whatever the case, please explain your plans for reorganizing the office.
A. Yes, there will be a "housecleaning." The Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's Office is one of the largest circuit court clerk offices in the country. If elected, I will end the neglect, mismanagement, and corruption that has plagued the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's Office for decades and help usher in a new era rooted in government reforms.
I will ask the County Board to provide resources for a full-scale performance and operational audit of the office's technology, processes, and employee readiness. My management team and I will interview and survey office leadership, department managers, clerks, lawyers, and judges to hear further about organizational problems.
Q. How would you rate the performance of longtime incumbent Dorothy Brown, who is leaving the position?
A. This election for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk is not about Dorothy Brown. The taxpayers of Cook County and the users of the Circuit Court Clerk's Office need and deserve to know that the status quo is not acceptable, and change is necessary.
Q. What would you bring to the office and what would your priority be?
A. I heard from many people about the issues within the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's Office and the failures of the office. I have spent my career fighting for working families and breaking barriers for women and people of color. Efficiency and transparency are the cornerstones for successfully reforming the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's Office. Prioritizing transparency, technology and public interaction are some of my top priorities.
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. The best way to address the shortcomings and failures in the Circuit Court Clerk Office is to have the office undergo a performance and operational audit. This audit will determine if the departments are operating efficiently, both in personnel and technology.
The Circuit Court Clerk's Office will need the assistance and support of the County Board President, the County Board, the Chief Judge's Office, the State's Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, the Public Guardian's Office, and the Sheriff's Office.
I will develop a cohesive and comprehensive plan to address the office's institutional and operational problems.
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. Casefile management is a severe problem within the Circuit Court Clerk's Office. I heard from many people about the issues within the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's Office and the failure to have the case file ready and complete when a case is to be heard.
This problem is especially real when the circumstances involve some of the more vulnerable citizens of Cook County, such as child protection, juvenile justice, criminal matters, orders of protection, and domestic relations. The files for these cases need to be digitized and organized into an information management system that can be easily and quickly accessed.
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. Transparency is one of the most important cornerstones for successfully reforming the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's Office. The Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's Office fails to be transparent about its problems and fails to identify solutions to make it efficient and better.
It is my experience that sunlight and transparency go hand-in hand with changing the culture of a public office. This past spring, I proposed Senate Bill 3850 to change the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to include the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County as a public body and, thus, subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
I will continue to advocate for that statutory change by the Illinois General Assembly.