So as we were saying the other day, DeKalb city attorney Dean Frieders made a pitch for in-house adjudication of local ordinance violations via administrative hearings.
To be clear, DeKalb already does administrative hearings, but it’s limited to violations related to the administrative towing ordinance, parking citations, and city-issued licenses. So what we’re talking about is an expansion in what DeKalb would handle itself, as opposed to using the circuit court process.
Frieders said the chief circuit court judge and state’s attorney support the changes. I’m sure that’s true and it’s fine. These officials get to run their offices the way they see fit. But county board members contacted by citizens since the presentation, including members of the Law and Justice Committee, hadn’t heard of it. They should have, because budgeting.
Here’s an excerpt from a report that circuit clerk Maureen Josh made to the county’s Law and Justice Committee last fall.
Mr. Pietrowski asked Ms. Josh what may be some trends that she would like to have the Circuit Clerk’s Office prepared for in the next 5 to 10 years…Ms. Josh addressed how in-house adjudication has had an incredibly significant impact on the County court fees. Some local municipalities are now trying their own cases and are collecting their own judgements. The traffic ticket has been the highest steady income for the courts for many years and everyone else tapped onto that. Meaning, one single ticket judgement would break down and go to 25 different agencies, Ms. Josh explained. In the end, the municipalities were receiving such a small amount of “the pie” that they decided to lobby to pass legislation that gives them the authority to write traffic-related tickets and collect all of the money and not have to report it to Springfield so it doesn’t go on an individual’s record. Because of this though, the traffic tickets for DeKalb County (which funds most of the court system) has plummeted dramatically.
At that same time, in fact, the county people were figuring out how to make $148,000 in cuts to court-related services.
DeKalb can do what it wants, certainly, but due to likely impacts at the county level, it seems like professional courtesy would call for a heads up to the county board much earlier in the process.
It’s another reason our city council should insist that initiatives be brought to the public very quickly.