Circuit clerk's computer glitch causes headaches

ST. CHARLES – For at least four years when Deborah Seyller was Kane County circuit clerk, more than 1,000 people charged with driving under the influence and other serious traffic violations did not have the dispositions of their cases forwarded to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office as required, officials said.

In all, 1,393 people were affected from 2005 through 2008, said current Circuit Clerk Thomas Hartwell, because of a computer problem. When the clerk’s office sent the information about summary suspensions and revocations for each case to the secretary of state electronically, it was not received, said secretary of state spokesman Dave Drucker.

“We received nothing,” Drucker said. “I think they are up to date on current cases from 2008 to today, but as best we can tell, there is a backlog. We met with his [Hartwell’s] predecessor and offered to have people come up and help if it was a manpower problem, but [Seyller] refused. We want this resolved and the records reported to us.”

Drivers who had their licenses revoked by a judge, for example, never actually had their licenses revoked because the information never was successfully passed along to the secretary of state. As Kane County works its way through the backlog by hand – Hartwell said – the state is sending revocation notices and seeking unpaid fines.

Seyller’s phone number was disconnected, and a message left at her current business was not returned. Hartwell said problems apparently came about when the circuit clerk’s computer system, Jano, was not updated or maintained for six or seven years.

Hartwell said Jano’s business partners were in a disagreement, and – rather than deal with it – Seyller chose not to have the Jano system upgraded or maintained.

“These cases kind of went into that dark hole where two computers were not talking to each other,” Hartwell said. “We did not realize the secretary of state was not getting the information. It came to my attention when I came to the office Dec. 3. … It was not really properly followed up until it became ridiculously critical by all parties involved.”

Seyller chose not to run for re-election, and Hartwell was elected in November 2012.

Hartwell said he was hoping the secretary of state would take a lenient position so as not to hurt Kane County residents who did not know their records had not been forwarded.

“We did send the required notice,” Hartwell said. “This is crazy and unfair because of a computer problem. … We did get feedback that the information was received, but the way the information was formatted, it was not able to be understood.”

Nosa Bridges, who now runs Jano, said his father did have a falling out with his business partner. Now that his father died late last year, he is running the company.

“We have not seen the Kane County system because they have not paid us for maintenance in six years,” Bridges said.

In addition to not getting the newest version of Jano, the county also did not get any fixes or updates to the software. Jano supplies a similar system to circuit clerks in a half dozen other counties, including Sangamon, Madison and Kendall. Those counties continued to have Jano do upgrades and maintenance, Bridges said.

“Business was still being done,” Bridges said, adding that Jano is working to start anew with Kane County and plans to respond to the circuit clerk’s current request for proposals for a new operating system.

“This is not the fault of our software or the current company,” Bridges said.