BACKGROUND

Candidate’s name: Dorothy Brown

Candidate for:  Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County

Twitter: ClerkBrown 2016

Facebook: Re-Elect Dorothy Brown

Website:  www.friendsofdorothybrown.org

 

What do you consider to be the major issue(s) facing Cook County?

The major issue facing Cook County’s justice agencies is the continuing fragmentation of information sharing across agencies. There is good news on this front, though. In December 2015, the Cook County Board finally approved funding for purchase of an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to facilitate communications between the different software applications used by the Chief Judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Public Defender, Sheriff, State’s Attorney and the Cook County Bureau of Technology.

The “Bus” was the brainchild of the Cook County Integrated Criminal Justice Information Systems (“CCICJIS”) Committee, which I organized and have chaired since 2002.   Our goal was to develop an integrated criminal justice enterprise for Cook County. Together, the member agencies published a strategic plan and detailed plan of action, which have helped bring the entire justice system into the 21st century.

However, much more work needs to be done to ensure that each agency reforms business processes to get the most out of the “Bus.” I will continue to chair CCICJIS to build effective and efficient processes.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?

My number one priority is to continue improving the efficiency of court case management from case initiation to disposition. To improve case management, I will increase automation capacity, update existing management processes and promote 100% user acceptance of existing green technology. 

I will:

Purchase a state-of-the-art case management system that will be integrated with other justice agencies. The system will provide justice partners with upgraded management reports, permit general electronic filing for both attorneys and individuals, permit attorneys to file electronic draft orders and motions directly with judges, as well as permit judges to review orders and motions and rule on them electronically.  The new case management system will speed up the administration of justice.

Work with the judiciary to make all courtrooms eCourtrooms.    This would enable judges, attorneys, parties to cases, and jurors to see electronic images of documents, evidence and exhibits on large screens and computers.  There would be computers on all attorney desks, and there will be a portable electronic podium for permitting attorneys to see images while standing in front of the judge.

Expand the Interactive Order System (IOS). Currently in a pilot phase, IOS allows judges to enter court orders directly into a computer to produce dispositions for the Clerk’s electronic docket and various official court documents, such as half-sheets, bonding and warrant documents and agency draft orders.

Work with the judiciary to ensure speedy trials by assigning criminal cases based on the type of crime.  For instance, felony murders take a longer time to adjudicate than class 4 felonies for marijuana possession. Cases would be assigned to court rooms based upon the amount of adjudication time. Less serious cases would be assigned to one courtroom to reduce the amount of time between filing and final disposition.

Request that the Illinois Supreme Court make the electronic record the official court record. This will permit court cases to move forward expeditiously because there would not be any papers to process.

I will continue promoting 100% user acceptance of existing electronic processes, including e-filing, e-notices, e-plea, e-tickets and e-mitts.

Work with the Chief Judge and the Illinois Supreme Court to gain permission to provide electronic images over the Internet.

What avenues do you see for increasing business growth and economic development in the County?

To help promote growth and economic development, I would advocate that Cook County implement three initiatives:

  • ·       Promote a truly regional approach to economic development,
  • ·       Institute sales tax holidays for consumers and businesses, and
  • ·       Establish a Cook County small business improvement fund program.

 

Promoting a truly regional approach

I support the 10 regional planning goals outlined in the 2009 Cook County Action Plan for Economic Development.  The 10 goals are:

  • ·       Adopting a regional approach to business development and retention issues,
  • ·       Continuing to promote a regional shift from brown to green manufacturing,
  • ·       Developing effective business incubators,
  • ·       Leveraging our extraordinary access to freight and multi-modal transportation,
  • ·       Support planning and development for new public transit lines,
  • ·       Support planning and development for a new high speed rail corridor,
  • ·       Promoting our region’s highly skilled workforce,
  • ·       Promoting our region’s diversity while improving equal access to jobs and contracts,
  • ·       Promoting our region’s commitment to strong infrastructure, and
  • ·       Guarding against harmful international trade impacts.

·        

Institute Sales Tax Holidays for Consumers and Business

To generate consumer spending and build up the economy, Cook County should implement Sales Tax-Free weeks.  In other cities, such as New York, various one-week blocks of time are designated as sales tax-free for purchases of clothing and footwear and items used to make and repair these items. Shoppers do not have to pay city or state sales tax on any clothing and footwear items as long as the price is under $110.

Create Small Business Improvement Fund Program (SBIF)

In the City of Chicago, SBIF have provided matching grants of up to $150,000 to help small and mid-sized industrial and commercial companies make improvements on their facilities. Expenses eligible for a SBIF grant include: new windows, floors or roof; sign removal and replacement; tuckpointing; new heating, ventilation and air conditioning; improvements to accommodate disabled patrons or workers; and purchase of adjacent property for building expansion or parking.

Funding for the grants is provided by Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenues.  I would favor implementation of a similar program to help suburban municipalities in Cook County.  This program would be funded Community Development Block Grants and I would also suggest that we help individuals with small business loan application.

If elected, what will you do to support local farmers, including urban farmers and community gardeners?

The Clerk’s Office is primarily an administrative office of the Illinois courts.  In that capacity, the Office can raise awareness among the 1,800 employees and their families about locally grown products and the benefits of urban farming and community gardens. The Office can sponsor a series of “brown bag” lunches for employees to meet representatives of local farmers and gardeners and learn more about farming and gardening. Also, the Office can raise awareness about farming and gardening through the biweekly Workplace Journal, which is distributed to all employees, online videos, the Clerk’s Office’s Facebook page, and other media. Lastly, the Clerk’s Office can endorse legislation supporting local and urban farming initiatives.  I will gladly support such efforts.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?

The Clerk’s Office can reduce government spending through headcount reductions from attrition as a result of expanded use of e-filing and the image and document management systems.  The e-filing system should help to decrease the number cashiers necessary to accept case filings over the counter and the number of data entry operators needed to input case filing information to the electronic docket because the system is programmed to automatically update the electronic docket.  The imaging and document management system should  help to reduce the number of staff needed to retrieve files from the shelves for court hearings, transport files to and from the courtrooms, and transport files to and from the warehouse.   In addition, the electronic ticket system, once adopted by all municipalities and all police districts within the Ccity of Chicago, should reduce the number of data entry operators needed to data enter the information.  We also hope to reduce headcount by having judges rule off of the image of the traffic ticket from the electronic ticket system.  We also feel that we will be able to reduce the number of staff needed to data enter traffic ticket payments, as more people start to use the electronic traffic ticket payment system.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.

I have successfully managed the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court for the last 15 years, bringing significant improvements to an antiquated and poorly run system.  I have a proven record of accomplishments in ensuring financial accountability, strengthening customer service, bringing 21st century technology to the Office, and improving the efficiency of operations.

In December 2000, when I took office, the Clerk’s Office was operating at a deficit and computer systems were woefully outdated.  Under my leadership, the Clerk’s Office has reduced expenditures, upgraded information technology, improved customer services, reorganized the structure of the Office to improve efficiency, and trained employees on new software, customer service, diversity and some foreign languages to better serve the public. 

Following is a synopsis of the Office’s accomplishments. 

Financial Accountability Accomplishments

  • ·      Introduced credit card payment system for bail bonds—thus reducing jail overcrowding.  Collected over $55 million dollars in bail bonds and fees through credit cards.
  • ·       Strengthened past-due collections strategies by first creating a Financial Compliance Unit that led to the collection of $2.036 million in previously uncollected funds owed to County; and then lead the implementation of a new law permitting collection agencies, then hired collection agencies that collected over $25 millions.
  • ·       Led the passing of a law to permit State Income Tax Refund interception for court fees.  Collected over $8 million in fees.
  • ·       Implemented various cost cutting measures.

 

Customer Service Accomplishments

  • ·       Raised awareness of $16+ million in unclaimed mortgage foreclosure surplus funds for distressed homeowners.  Created online, searchable database of available surplus funds.
  • ·       Implemented online Orders of Protection (OOPs) forms, guidelines for completing OOPs, and instructions for obtaining court orders.
  • ·       Provide comprehensive information about expungement of criminal records online, at seminars and in public service announcements; instituted an annual weekend full service expungement summit, over 14,000 people have been served.
  • ·       Created online search engine for parents to find unclaimed child support checks.
  • ·       Instituted an easy and convenient global filing of no fee filing items.

 

Rebuilding the infrastructure

  • ·       Linked computers by installing a wide area network.
  • ·       Replaced "dumb terminals" with flat-panel monitors and "thin clients," thus bringing the hardware into the 21st century.
  • ·       Inaugurated internal and external email systems, with periodic upgrades.
  • ·       Upgraded servers to Blade and SAN environment.
  • ·       Instituted an intranet system for faster employee communication.

 

Saving money

Consolidated the mainframe system with Cook County for an annual saving of $1 million.

 

Creating user-friendly website and information kiosks

  • ·       Instituted a searchable database of fillable court forms.
  • ·       Upgraded the electronic docket searches for Chancery, Civil, Domestic Relations, Law, Probate, Criminal and Traffic cases.
  • ·       Installed a system that permits online payment of traffic fines, requesting a court date for court diversion tickets, or requesting traffic safety school.
  • ·       Installed information kiosks at Criminal/Felony, Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Divisions for easy case lookup and retrieval in Spanish, Polish, and English.
  • ·       Created searchable online index of Declaration of Intentions (Immigration) records.
  • ·       Installed a Webinar for the Electronic Filing system to help customers learn the efiling system.

 

Increasing internal efficiency

  • ·       Instituted the use of carbonated forms for the frequently used court forms that require multiple copies.
  • ·       Installed an imaging and document management system in County, Chancery, Law, Probate, Child Support, Domestic Relations, Juvenile, Child Protection, Civil and Criminal and Traffic major traffic tickets), division, with the minor traffic tickets scheduled for 2016.
  • ·       Installed a new $6 million integrated cashiering and security system, integrating it with the electronic docket system to improve financial quality controls.

 

E-filing

Implemented e-filing for civil litigation.  Electronic filing for Criminal and Traffic divisions is planned for 2016.

 

Information sharing with other justice agencies

  • Implemented automated file transfer of summons data from the Sheriff's Office to Clerk's Office.  Implemented sharing of electronic mittimus information with the Sheriff’s Office.  Instituted nightly reporting to Secretary of State's office of litigants who failed to pay court- ordered traffic fines.

I will continue to build on this record of accomplishment in my next term. I am a certified public accountant, an MBA and an attorney.  My educational background is as follows: Chicago-Kent College of Law, Juris Doctorate, 1995; DePaul University, Master of Business Administration – Finance, 1981; Certified Public Accountant, February 1977; and Southern University, Bachelor’s Degree – Accounting/Computer Science, Baton Rouge, LA, 1975.

My past experience that has already been helpful in managing the Office of the Circuit Court is as follows:

  • Worked as an Accountant for Commonwealth Edison Company, and an Auditor for Arthur Anderson and Company.  Both experiences gave me the accounting knowledge to manage the $100 million budget.   My experience at Arthur Anderson of working on systems of multi-million dollar corporation gave me the understanding of how to manage the operation of the Clerk’s Office.
  • Worked as an Audit Manager for First National Bank of Chicago and a Senior Manager for Odell Hicks and Company Certified Public Accountants.  The experience of auditing the investments of First Chicago helps me with the management of the Clerk’s Office investments; and my experience of auditing major corporations and governments helped me to manage the Clerk’s Office complex operation.
  • Worked as the General Auditor of the Chicago Transit Authority ensuring control over it multi-billion assets and developed proper internal control procedures to ensure that there was no risk of loss of assets.  This experience helps me to control the Clerk’s Office assets.

 

BACKGROUND

Candidate’s name:  Jacob J. Meister

Candidate for:  Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County

Twitter: @jacobmeister3

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jacobjmeister/

Website:  www.jacobmeister.com

 

What do you consider to be the major issue(s) facing Cook County?

There are many issues facing Cook County, including near universal recognition that the Circuit Court Clerk’s office is broken, both operationally and ethically. The Clerk’s office is steeped in cronyism and riddled with inefficiencies and antiquated technology. That culture needs to be changed. The justice system is central to everything we do and must be cleaned up so the Clerk’s office becomes a model system known for efficiency instead of corruption and incompetence.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?

Modernization.  Because the current Clerk operates with a paper-based system, many users are impacted: (a) courtroom services are inadequate;  (b) inadequate customer service leaves users frustrated and unable to conduct their business; (c) inefficiencies in the system end up costing individuals and businesses more in legal fees; (d) police officers regularly show up for court cases that have been dismissed, ending up in wasted officer time that could be better spent on the streets, in our communities; and much more.

My top priority will be making the office “paperless,” using technology that is commonplace in other courts in which I have practiced in Illinois and around the country.  I want to put an end to lost paperwork that leaves cases in limbo, and end the inefficiencies that cost taxpayers and businesses millions.

What avenues do you see for increasing business growth and economic development in the County?

A modernized, efficiently run Court Clerk’s office can only help Cook County grow, attract and retain businesses. An efficient government keeps tax rates down and encourages economic development. An efficient court system will allow for quick and efficient resolution of cases, which is especially attractive to business since it saves all parties time and resources.

If elected, what will you do to support local farmers, including urban farmers and community gardeners?

I will continue to support opportunities local farmers, urban farmers and community gardeners have in Cook County, from public farmers markets being held at court buildings to considering other initiatives that support these locally-based businesses that enhance life in Cook County. 

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?

The lack of modern electronic systems prevents collaboration and communication with other agencies in the county, and costs taxpayers and businesses millions.  Under my leadership, the Clerk’s office will move away from antiquated systems and embrace the technology needed to dramatically increase efficiency. We also need to insure that the Court’s computer systems must also integrate all stakeholders in the justice system, including all municipalities in the County, the Sheriff, State's Attorney, Public Defender, Department of Corrections and private attorneys, among others.  This capital investment will ultimately achieve significant efficiencies and savings both at the county and municipal levels and will insure that errors are minimized.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.

I have been an attorney for 25 years and routinely practice in the Circuit Court of Cook County. I know firsthand the desperate need for reform in both the operation and the culture of the Clerk’s office.  My cases have brought me to almost all of the Circuit Court's operating divisions. Additionally, I have had cases in other Illinois Circuit Courts and courts around the country so I have a working knowledge of existing technology used elsewhere.  My experience as a litigator is invaluable and allows me to understand how the operations of the Clerk’s office need to be reformed and modernized and to develop solutions that meet the needs of all users of the Court system.

In addition to my litigation experience, I am the founder and chairman of a nonprofit organization and have had a diverse career in government and with labor issues.  I have also been the managing attorney of a successful law firm, the hiring partner of a 350 attorney law firm and the Chief Operating Officer of a real estate development company with offices in multiple states. My experience managing hundreds of employees in multiple locations and instituting effective management practices and procedures will be essential to creating a well-run and professional Clerk’s office.