Cost savings and customer service top clerk of court issues
Longtime incumbent Sheila T. Reiff of Elkhorn will face veteran attorney Carol Unger-Keizer of Darien Township in the Sept. 14 Republican primary for Walworth Court Clerk of Courts.
Since a Democrat is not running, the primary outcome will essentially decide who captures the four-year term.
The salary this year is $70,543. It will increase to $71,601 in 2011, $72,675 in 2012, $73,765 in 2013 and to $74,872 in 2014.
Both candidates answered questions from the Gazette.
-- What are the main campaign issues?
Reiff: She said the main issues in her office are fiscal.
“As a court administrator, my duties involve use of resources, budgets, finance and case management,” Reiff said.
Reiff says her critics, who include her challenger, should understand that Walworth County is better than the state average in its timely handling of cases.
Unger-Keizer: She said rising costs to use the clerk of courts office is an issue. The campaign is about an office that needs to be responsive to the public and treat it with respect.
Charging $1.25 per page for copies when 25 cents would be a more appropriate charge displays the lack of responsiveness to customers. It also shows s a policy of using the office as a moneymaker.
The goal of government is to be responsive to citizens and not find additional ways to charge citizens for services, she said.
Reiff responded: “I always get compliments on how my staff treats the public.”
The $1.25 per page is dictated by state statute, Reiff said. Walworth County judges ruled last month that lawyers could not take files from the court clerk’s office to make copies at the machine, Reiff said. The public cannot do it. Lawyers should not be allowed, either, the judges ruled, Reiff said.
Unger-Keizer: She said lawyers are officers of the courts and should be trusted to carry files outside of the court clerk’s office.
-- What experience do you bring to the office?
Reiff: She has served as clerk of courts for 15 years. Reiff said she is involved in creating a new project that informs crime victims when a defendant is released from jail or prison. Another project that involves her is the creation of a drunken driving court.
Reiff says the use of collection agencies and tax intercepts has allowed the clerk of courts office to collect $4.3 million owed to the county court system since 2002.
By contracting for court-appointed attorneys, Reiff said she has saved $100,000 annually.
Unger-Keizer: She said her experiences as an attorney who practices law in Walworth County will bring fresh ideas and approaches to running the office.
She has practiced criminal and family law here for 17 years, giving her knowledge of the four courts and judicial clerks in the county, she said.
“It would be a constant commitment to customer service,” Unger-Keizer said. “You don’t get referrals from people you’ve represented unless you have provided satisfactory customer service.”