ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Former Kane County Circuit Clerk Deborah Seyller said she first realized there was a problem in transmitting information on DUI convictions to the secretary of state in 2009.
Seyller said former state’s attorney John Barsanti, now a judge, informed her that something was amiss.
“He said, ‘This is not on record at the secretary of state,’ ” said Seyller, referring to a drunken driving conviction. “After a few times of hearing it, I started an internal investigation. We had to look at every single one of those records to see whether or not it was on the secretary of state records … [and] from what we could see, it started in 2002” when the new Jano computer system went live.
At issue are possible DUI and other serious driving infractions that were not properly sent electronically to the Illinois secretary of state from 2002 to 2008. State officials say about a fourth of the cases did not go through, because of a computer glitch with the circuit clerk’s Jano system.
Seyller and her staff had to go through 5,600 cases by hand in batches of 100 to see which ones had gone through and which ones had not.
Barsanti said he recalled the issue coming up a few times when a defendant’s driving abstract was not accurate – that is, the office had a defendant with a DUI conviction but no record of it in Springfield.
“I remember inquiring,” Barsanti said. “That there were kinks in the records of the criminal justice system is not all that odd. I never thought this was something that happened all the time.”
The current circuit clerk, Tom Hartwell, said the staff is still going through cases from 2003 and 2002.
The problem with DUI and other serious convictions that are not properly recorded, officials said, is that it is possible that drivers who should have licenses revoked or suspended continue driving.
Seyller said she talked to an attorney at the secretary of state’s office in 2009 to try to make sure the old DUI cases did not result in anyone losing a license years after a conviction.
“I informed who needed to be informed at the secretary of state,” Seyller said. “I wanted to work something out ... because suspending a license so far out, people could lose their job because they lost their license and they thought everything was done and taken care of. I could not get through to them.”
Seyller maintains that her office started sending the missing cases to the secretary of state in 2010, but Terry Montalbano, licensing administrator for the secretary of state, said his office did not receive the first batch until September 2012.
“There were 167 cases in the original batch,” Montalbano said. “They came in an envelope with no explanation.”
Of those, 48 were DUI convictions from 2007 and 2008 that had not been suspended or revoked as required, but were entered properly on Oct. 19, 2012, he said.
Montalbano said his office set up a telephone conference with Seyller and some of her deputy clerks on Oct. 31, 2012.
Another wrinkle in the situation is that the reinstatement fee for a driver’s license was $70. But in 2012, that amount was raised to $500, Montalbano said. So those who seek to reinstate their licenses after a belated revocation will have to pay the bigger fee.
Montalbano and Seyller’s recollections of the conference call also are at odds. Montalbano said he offered to send staff from the secretary of state’s office to help Seyller go through the thousands of cases that needed to be checked.
And although Seyller complained that she had one employee on maternity leave and another out on family leave, she still declined the assistance, he said.
Seyller said she did not recall an offer of help from Montalbano.
Montalbano said records show that Seyller contacted an attorney with the secretary of state in 2009 about the records not going through.
“But there was no indication of how many, no indication of so massive a number or what to do for people because of a lateness in reporting,” Montalbano said. “In my opinion, that makes it worse, if in 2009 she knew there was a problem and September 2012 is when this first batch came in.”
He disputed Seyller’s version that her office had been sending them all along.
“That is absolutely not true, not true at all,” Montalbano said.
County Board members Mark Davoust, R-St. Charles, and Michael Kenyon, R-South Elgin, have called for Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon to investigate the disposition of DUI cases under Seyller. McMahon said he would not comment.