Eliminating McLean County recorder's office to be on Nov. ballot

December 20, 2011 10:58 am  • 

BLOOMINGTON — Voters will be asked next fall whether to eliminate the county recorder’s office and move its functions to the county clerk’s office.

The McLean County Board voted 13-5 after a nearly two-hour debate Tuesday to place the question on the Nov. 6, 2012, ballot. If approved, the merger would be effective Dec. 31, 2013, which would give the recorder to be elected in that same balloting one year in office.

Incumbent Recorder Lee Newcom and challenger Rex Diamond will face off in the March 20 primary to determine the Republican candidate for the office. Barring a challenge by a write-in, the winner of the March primary ultimately will be elected to the office for which no Democrat has filed.

County Board member Paul Segobiano suggested placing the question about eliminating the office on the March ballot, saying it was a way to streamline government and save taxpayers’ money. County Administrator Bill Wasson has estimated the merger would save $46,800 to $100,000 a year.

Board member Erik Rankin said that if the goal is to save taxpayers money, “Why not look at the other positions of auditor and coroner; they are not mandated. If we really want to save money, let’s clean house; do all at once.”

Other members agreed that those offices should be looked at as well but not at the same time.

The board was divided on when to bring the recorder’s office questions to voters.

Member Ben Owens said it shouldn’t be when the position is up for election. Ultimately, he suggested changing Segobiano’s original proposal of a March question to a November question and extending the effective date a year.

Members split equally on whether to change the date. Chairman Matt Sorensen broke the tie, leading to a final vote on the amended resolution.

Before the final vote, Newcom and County Clerk Kathy Michael were allowed to address the board. Member William T. Caisley tried unsuccessfully to get fellow board members to also allow Diamond to speak.

“I’m the wrong person to make a decision on this,” said Newcom. “This is my job; it’s my living.”

Despite that, Newcom said he will not advocate keeping the office because his political philosophy is to cut government wherever possible.

Newcom suggested the savings may not be as great as expected because the office would need a manager who likely would get a pay hike. He also does not support moving the duties to the already busy county clerk’s office, but he supported Owens’ idea of moving it to the office of the supervisor of assessments.

Michael said 86 counties in the state have combined the recorder’s office with the county clerk’s office — moving functions to the assessor’s office has never happened.

She also balked at a comment that the recorder’s duties would be “shuffled to a back room.”

“We’re a professional office,” she said.