Keith Brin’s Budget Claims Just “Smoke and Mirrors”?

In a recent press release candidate for Lake County Circuit Court Clerk, Gerald Dietz, questions statements made by Chief Deputy Clerk, Keith Brin, that the clerk’s office is cost-effective and returns millions of dollars back to the County each year.
Following is the press release along with documentation pertaining to the charges:

Chief Deputy Professes “Millions in Profit” but Closer Look at Budget Reveals Operational Deficit for 2012 of $294,904.

ROUND LAKE, IL – Republican candidate for Circuit Court Clerk Gerald Dietz today challenged Chief Deputy Keith Brin’s false claims that the Clerk’s office is cost-effective and operates within the budget.

“I take issue with a candidate who is running for office claiming to have been a good steward of tax dollars when in reality, it’s a bait-and-switch with budget numbers and a complete falsehood,” Dietz said. “Misrepresenting the office’s revenues and expenditures is a disgrace to the people of Lake County.”

In statements made at the League of Women Voters’ candidate forum on February 12 and other local forums, Chief Deputy of the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office claimed that the office is cost-effective and returns millions of dollars back to the County each year.

“That’s an easy conclusion to make considering that the budget overview sheet for the Circuit Court Clerk shows that the department expects revenues in the amount of $12,536,625.00 and expenses of only $8,927,954.00,” Dietz said. “However, close examination of the pages detailing those revenues clearly shows that almost $4 million of that revenue is for use by other departments, and the office does not operate in the black.”

According to state statute, the Circuit Court Clerk’s office is required to collect revenues such as Court Security fees, traffic and conservation fees on behalf of other county departments and agencies. While the Circuit Court Clerk is mandated to collect these fees, these revenues do not directly support the office operations or functions, as Brin has stated.

“The Circuit Clerk will collect $2 million in court security fees for FY12, but these public dollars are distributed to the Sheriff’s Department who manages the Court Security division,” Dietz said. “Additionally, the Circuit Clerk budget shows revenues of $1.5 million for the County’s traffic and conservation fees, but these are required by law to be deposited into the County’s general corporate fund.”

“It is unfortunate that the Chief Deputy, and a candidate for Clerk, is misrepresenting the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in this way. We need honesty, transparency and accountability in the Clerk’s office,” Dietz said. “ I look forward to serving the people of Lake County with integrity and fiscal restraint.”

In November 2011, the Lake County Board adopted its budget for fiscal year 2012 totaling more than $487,000,000. Contained within the 349 page document are several pages that detail each department and/or functional area.

Circuit Court Clerk Budget
Contrary to what Keith Brin claims, the Circuit Court Clerk's Budget is actually running a deficit,

In other news related to expenditures of the current administration, the topic of a $2.3 million dollar no-bid contract has been brought up by Brin’s challenger. This contract was awarded to a company to create and implement an E-filing system. The problem is, the pilot program has not been approved and up to $1.7 million dollars is reportedly already spent!

Memo from the Chief Judge:

Pursuant to our meeting I am advising you that the Circuit Judges met and unanimously agreed that an outside/independent consultant be retained to do an assessment of the technology needs for the future of our court and the current E-filing proposal of URL.

            The Circuit Judges met on December 3, 2010 and were briefed on the URL proposal and were presented with information from the E-Court seminar, including discussions with case management systems and integration vendors, staff of Justice Serviced and staff of the National Center for State Courts. From this discussion the consensus of the Circuit Judges is that there are concerns about what technology is available and necessary for our needs now and into the future; with the system we currently have (CRIMS), and how will it integrate with future technology and how does E-filing fit into the future technology of Lake County. Concerns were raised regarding the costs of the proposed project with URL, that URL has no track record in constructing a case management system, the future viability of URL should issues develop with the implementation of the program; as well as the viability of CRIMS and a cost analysis of the current proposed project vs. other available products.

              While it is possible that URL may, indeed, be the best vendor for a new E-filing system for the 19th Judicial Circuit, until we are provided with an independent opinion by a recognized expert in the field of case management systems and integration we will not authorize the proposal of URL to do this work. We, the Circuit Judges, believe that due diligence requires that an independent consultant be retained to advise us about the URL proposal so that we have a well reasoned approach to any future action we take in this area.

The project has still not been evaluated, yet close to two million dollars has been reportedly spent knowing that it might not get approved.  If the judges fail to approve this no-bid project, then it’s money wasted. That might explain why we heard the Gong at a recent League of Women Voters forum when the topic came up and Brin tried to explain it away.

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