Investigation finds no wrongdoing by former Kane County circuit clerk
By Dan Campana For Sun-Times Media September 11, 2013 10:26AM
Former Kane County Circuit Clerk Deb Seyller
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:27AM
An investigation prompted by two veteran Kane County Board members found no wrongdoing by former Circuit Clerk Deborah Seyller in how her office handled the reporting of drunken driving convictions to the state.
Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said the allegations were raised by board members Mark Davoust (R-St. Charles) and Mike Kenyon (R-South Elgin) in June. A June 20 letter to McMahon from Davoust and Kenyon states they had been advised of “certain irregularities” that occurred during Seyller’s time as clerk. More specifically, the letter claims the clerk’s office failed to send information on nearly 1,400 drunken driving convictions to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, which led to “serious delays” in the revocation of licenses, among other things.
McMahon said the investigation has turned up no wrongdoing or anything unlawful, just “the complexity of government interaction.”
McMahon and current Circuit Clerk Thomas Hartwell explained the issue relates to 1,734 reported DUI convictions — out of approximately 13,700 — that were sent back to Kane County because of various errors between 2002 and 2008. Kane County, as with all counties in Illinois, reports court dispositions to the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts, which, in turn, sends information to the Secretary of State’s Office and other state agencies.
The errors typically involved the Secretary of State’s Office being unable to match Kane County’s conviction information to a driver’s license or name in state driving records. Those errors were coded using a state system outlined in a 160-page manual used by the circuit clerk and then returned to Kane County for further verification. However, the investigation found that did not happen for several years until 2009, when convictions were reviewed by deputy clerks in Kane before being sent to the state.
McMahon and Hartwell cited computers and reporting formats for the lapse in following up on conviction information with errors.
“It is a systematic issue,” Hartwell, who took office in December, said. “Currently, there are no problems. An accurate court record is my office’s priority.”
Hartwell’s office has nearly completed an audit of 13,703 DUI convictions since 2002 to locate every file that needed to be reported or corrected. The 1,734 returned because of errors represent a small percentage of the overall picture, Hartwell said. McMahon said there’s no indication any error in the reported convictions played a role in subsequent cases. He noted that his office has other sources of information, in addition to secretary of state records, that spell out a defendant’s driving and criminal history.
McMahon said he would not speculate on the timing or the motivation for the letter, but explained his investigation focused on any legal issues — not clerk’s office operations — connected to the reporting process.
Hartwell won election in November after Seyller, a fellow Republican, opted not to seek a fifth term as clerk. Her oft-tenuous final term was marked by disputes with the County Board over funding and staffing issues that eventually led to a lawsuit. Published reports state Seyller, before her leaving office, alerted county officials to problems with the conviction information reporting, something she blamed on the staff levels and the county’s case management computer system.
Hartwell said the search for a replacement system is underway, with the selection of top vendors likely next month, followed by test runs of the vendors’ offerings. A selection could happen in December with eyes on implementation in 2014.