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Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to David Newberg's letter recently directed at me and my candidacy for the office of DeWitt County Circuit Clerk.  A few months ago Mr. Newberg came to my office and wanted to sit down and chat.  He stated that he looked forward to working with me in the future now that he was Dewitt County Chairman.  This would have been a perfect time for Mr. Newberg to describe to me how I had been rude with residents, but he failed to do this. 

 

As Chairman of the DeWitt County Board I would have expected that if indeed people had come to him with a complaint that he would have had the common courtesy to tell me what the complaints were about but he decided to wait until a week before the election to bring this to the public's attention - great timing.  Prior to meeting with the finance committee chairperson in November 2015 I was told that all departments were being asked to make substantial cuts.  I promptly submitted a budget that was far more than the 3% cut  suggested to help the county get back on its feet.  I had nothing to do with the "reform coalition's" decision which led to Area Disposal's withholding their million dollar a year fee to the county. 

 

I was not permitted to hire a 6th employee in my office because the county finance committee went against a memo from Judge Finson which stated that he was of the opinion that 6 deputy clerks were necessary in my office..  Something that Mr. Newberg fails to mention is the fact that I offered the county board an annual payment from one of my accounts to retain a 6th employee but they turned that down. 

 

Therefore, I have had to do without a much needed 6th employee in my office.  Before I took office, Lori Berger had 6 deputy clerks and 2 part-time clerks.  We have faced high turn-over because times have changed.  Most of my past and current employees consisted of single moms who struggled to pay their bills, provide a decent home and food for their children. 

 

When I took office the employees starting pay was $9.50 per hour for a 35 hour per week pay period - after taxes and insurance deductions there's not much to take home to pay the rent, utilities and buy food.  I researched this issue and presented the county board with all the necessary documentation and requested that the starting salary be raised to at least $10.00 per hour; I got it raised to $9.79 per hour which is where it is at to date.  Try hiring and retaining an employee who has to be part attorney/part court liaison for that amount of money.  The raise that my employees get is usually 3% per year which is barely enough to compensate for the cost of living. Most of the employees have resigned due to getting a better paying job offer.  I don't blame them for that - they have children to think about. 

 

Family always comes first in my book. I care about my employees and this county.  If that makes me unfit for office, then that's a sad commentary on life in DeWitt County.   I firmly believe in a strong work ethic.  Excessive absences, lack of attention to detail and using the county's computer to e-mail a lover explicit sexual content during work hours doesn't cut it with me and I have had to let employees go for precisely those reasons. I have a responsibility to the Court, constituents and the County.  I am not going to retain an employee who exhibits a lack of commitment to their job  just for the sake of retention. 

 

I currently have the best staff I have hired yet.  I have worked hard to bring about change already in my office.  When I took office, I wasn't satisfied with the performance of the current collection agency that was based in Florida and went in search of a collection agency based in Illinois.  I entered into a contract with Credit Collections Partners, Taylorville, Illinois and their performance has been outstanding.  Credit Collections Partners has collected $27,156.79 in less than a year.  That money is paid out to municipal, county and state in fines, fees and restitution owed to Dewitt County and it's citizens.  The previous collection agency only collected about a 1/3 of that in prior years.  I also painstakingly reviewed several divorce and family files and found several thousand of dollars that were owed to DeWitt County.  Due to my efforts my hard-work has collected $42,671.96 for the county in unpaid Guardian Ad Litem fees. 

 

I also recently signed a contract with the Illinois Comptroller's office to begin collecting unpaid fines, fees and restitution by intercepting tax refunds and state employee wages.  I am the first DeWitt County Circuit Clerk to sign this contract with the Illinois Comptroller's Office.  Yet Mr. Newberg states in his letter that I lack "oversight".  Mr. Newberg I don't understand how you have failed to see the benefits of having an employee like me.  Most people who have worked hard and stayed after hours several nights a week to produce what I have produced would be overjoyed to have me on their team. 

 

I'm sorry I don't fit your criteria as a model employee.  Instead, you have chosen my opponent who seriously lacks the experience to supervise an office of 5 employees, has no knowledge of the complex computer system of my office and who has already alienated herself with all of my employees by her remarks that they are rude to our clientele and don't have attention to detail.  You have a serious lack of judgment.

Pam Barnes
DeWitt County Circuit Clerk
 

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