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Our View: Backlog in circuit clerk’s office a big concern

Published: Saturday, June 22, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Issues in the Kane County Circuit Clerk’s Office have drawn scrutiny and are prompting questions.

The Kane County Chronicle reported earlier this week the records for more than a thousand people charged with DUI and other serious traffic offenses had not successfully made it to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office as required.

Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell has said the issues stem from problems with the office’s computer system, Jano, which reportedly was not updated or maintained by the Jano company for six or seven years. Deborah Seyller, Hartwell’s predecessor, said that she had an outside company perform maintenance. As such, at least 5,600 cases from 2002 to 2008 had to be counted by hand to check whether they had made it to the secretary of state, officials said. Since then, the circuit clerk has been working to catch up on the records that never made it over.

“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.”

Drivers whose licenses were revoked by a judge – in some cases a decade ago – are just now receiving revocation notices and paperwork asking for unpaid fines because that information did not initially get to the secretary of state.

The situation reinforces the county’s well-documented need to provide a fix to its woeful court computer system. It also recalls a period of sharp contention in the county – in particular, when Seyller sued former Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay and the County Board, alleging, among other things, that the County Board purposely underfunded her office. 

The issue prompts questions that may take time to answer. Is the backlog costing taxpayers more money than they would have paid if this situation never had occurred? What party or parties are ultimately responsible for the backlog? How long is it going to take to get the situation resolved? And what exactly does this mean for the people affected?

A charge of DUI and a subsequent revoked license don’t often elicit a lot of sympathy. But dealing with the ramifications resulting from the actions by the circuit clerk’s office years after they were supposed to have been resolved doesn’t seem fair either.

County officials are identifying funds for a new court computer system, and it is a fix that can’t come fast enough.

We support Hartwell and the secretary of state in working through the backlog as quickly as possible. And we hope tough questions are answered.

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