Technology upgrades, scanning key in Dem clerk’s primary
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org April 18, 2014 10:24PM
Updated: May 20, 2014 6:02AM
Lake County Clerk Mike Brown is seeking re-election, but he is being challenged in the May 6 Democratic primary by Josefina Magallanes.
There are no Republicans running for clerk, but it’s possible they could slate a candidate before the November general election.
Brown has served as clerk since he won a Democratic special precinct election in January 2010. It was held after then-clerk Thomas Philpot resigned after being elected coroner.
Previously, Brown was the Lake County recorder from 2005-2010, chief deputy for Lake County Coroner’s Office from 1997-2005, and a Lake County Court security officer for two years.
Magallanes, who ran for East Chicago City Council in 2010, is an insurance agent with Farmers Insurance in East Chicago. She touted her past experience as a paralegal and a teacher as helpful to running the clerk’s office if elected.
“I think my work as a paralegal definitely gives me an advantage since I’ve worked with the documents they’ve filed in clerk’s office,” she said.
Brown said several changes, such as e-filing and the expungement program, have started in the clerk’s office over the past few years, but he credited his staff with making the transition seamless.
“I’m fortunate to have great staff,” Brown said. “E-filing for attorneys working on foreclosures and other cases went off without hitch, and it’s been a very successful venture. We were the first county in the state to do it, and it’s been a plus for us.”
Magallanes said e-filing is a good idea, but the actual technology hasn’t been working as smoothly as it could.
“I’ve talked to attorneys and they say it has been incorrectly updated, so it’s not communicating with computers in other places,” Magallanes said. “This is the technology we will use for a long time, so we need to make sure it works.”
Brown also wants to ramp up the conversion of county documents to digital formats.
“We have about 35 million documents that need digital scanning,” Brown said. “At some point we need to go further with our efforts. In the event of a disaster, we don’t want to lose our records.”
Magallanes said the clerk’s office could do more of the work of scanning documents that make up the county backlog.
“Why did they need an outside company to come in and scan documents for us?” Magallanes said. “These decisions make us use money wastefully.”
The clerk’s office faced a $300,000 cut to its budget last year, but Brown said attrition and larger work loads have allowed the office to do more with less.
“We’ve not missed a beat to function well,” Brown said. “Through attrition and training and testing, we’ve been able to be even more effective. We’re able to make adjustments, and do more with less because of the quality of our employees.”