Friday, September 12, 2008

Circuit Clerk Candidate, Jim Lee, Answers Questions About His Candidacy

With Obama-McCain et al. getting all of the attention lately, the local candidates get lost in the piles of bull biscuits. Yet these folks are the ones who make our local government function, and they have a lot to do with our everyday lives. They deserve our attention, our thoughtful reflections, our consideration. With that …

I sat down with Jim Lee, candidate for Circuit Clerk, for a quick interview. With he on one side of the Internets and me on the other, he offered his thoughts on the job, his reasons for running, and the changes he has planned.

The Circuit Clerk is responsible for maintaining complete and accurate records of the court, collecting, accounting for, and disbursing all monies paid into the court; and performing other duties, as necessary to assist the court in performing its duties. Some of the duties of a court clerk are:
  • Receive, process, and maintain the judgments, rules, orders, and all other proceedings of the court.
  • Issue and process: summons, subpoenas, executions, garnishments, sequestrations, judgments, orders, and commitments.
  • Collect and disburse all fines and costs.
  • Collect and disburse other monies paid into court as ordered by the court.
  • Select and summon jurors.
  • Preserve the court seal and other property of the office.
  • Provide uniform case reporting.
  • Assist with genealogical searches including: criminal records (excluding traffic and misdemeanors), civil (excluding orders of protection, small claims, landlord-tenant issues, and judgments less than $25,000), dissolutions, name changes, juvenile, adoptions, financial, paternity, child support, and immigration records
  • Process passport application.

I was approached by several attorneys last March and asked if I was interested in running for Greene County Circuit Clerk. These attorneys indicated to me that there were significant shortfalls in the current operation of the office that went beyond the JIS software. These shortfalls have not been resolved.

  • More mistakes are being made now than ever before.
  • The files contain errors or, even worse, get lost.
  • There is a large turnover in staff.
  • There is evidence of a lack of attention to detail and a cavalier attitude towards the circuit clerk position by the current Clerk (“It’s not rocket science”).
  • The ‘file by fax’ program is cumbersome and inefficient.
  • Hand filed paper work is misfiled, misplaced or lost.
  • The Circuit Clerk’s position is a full time position and should be treated as such.
These attorneys knew of me from my previous involvement in the political process. They believe I possess the skills, judgment and experience to restore the public’s confidence in the Circuit Clerk’s office.

While it is not unique to have a college degree, a distinction between the current Clerk and me is that I have a Bachelor of Science degree in education. I am not only proud of this achievement but it is an indication that I am able to formulate a course of action and see it through to completion. After graduation from MSU, I taught 6th grade in the Nixa school district. In 1992, the Missouri State Teachers Association hired me as their Southwest Regional Coordinator. During my tenure with MSTA, membership increased from fewer than 3,000 members to over 10,000 members in the Southwest Region. I have demonstrated abilities to lead, to manage, to motivate and to achieve goals. I work hard, I work honest, and I don’t try to kid anyone.

The duties of the Circuit Clerk are spelled out quite specifically by Missouri state law and the rules of the Court. So, when I am elected I won’t be making any statutory changes — that is up to the legislature.

What I will do is this: I will see to it that the laws of Missouri and the rules of the Court are followed. I will see to it that the staff of the Circuit Clerk’s office is proficient in serving the citizens of Greene County. I will put into place people who have experience in the business of the Court. I will bring in knowledgeable personnel to train and cross-train the Circuit Clerk staff. (If funding is not available for such training, I will pay for it myself.) I will bring accuracy and efficiency back to the Circuit Clerk’s office.

Most of us will never have any contact with the Circuit Clerk's office. But if we should, our expectations are such that our business will be conducted in a timely manner, that the information contained in our case file will be accurate and up-to-date, and that we will be treated with the dignity, respect and professionalism that we deserve from our public servants.

The issues in the race are accuracy, efficiency, competency, the ability to read and follow directions, and who has the capability to judiciously lead and manage the office. The Clerk’s job is to follow the law, not interpret it.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these questions with you.

I thought I would have some fun at his opponent's expense by talking a bit about his opponent's Decalogue debacle, but Lee would have none of it, instead keeping his focus on the job at hand. I think that is especially telling of Lee and his professionalism and commitment to the job. The Circuit Clerk is not about religion but about serving the court system efficiently and he takes that seriously.

We have all heard stories about the backed-up court system and if the stories are true that the current office of the Circuit Clerk's is not working properly, then that will only serve to exacerbate the problem.

I know Lee. Certainly, knowing a candidate plays a significant role in the electoral process. It goes a long way when it comes to trusting a candidate. In typical Lee fashion, his down-to-Earth perspective and attitude is exemplified in his quote: "I work hard, I work honest, and I don’t try to kid anyone."

Therefore, the editorial board of Fat Jack Enterprises, Inc. supports Lee for Circuit Clerk.


Anonymous said...

The stories of the common mistakes and inefficiencies are totally true. Go Mr. Lee!

tom said...

It seems pretty unfair to point all the fingers at Steve Helms as being the reason behind the backlog. The person who retired from this position did not leave it in a manner to which any individual could come in without cleaning up an already back logged docket.

To blame Steve Helms for inheriting an already shoddily run department is quite disingenuous and misleading.

As for a poster which depicted the heroic actions of those on 9/11 and to turn that into a religious debate instead of just letting bygones be bygones.
Most of us would NOT have complained to see that poster but allowing for how democrats want to create news instead of allowing news to happen it stands to reason someone would whine that it was religious in nature in a government building, never mind the office holder nor the poster were PROMOTING a religion but it did contain some religious citations on the artwork. Perhaps Sheila Wright's husband should complain to George down at George's restaurant for displaying this poster in what is now known as a public area.

I still have yet to make up my mind on this position for this election but blaming an individual who has held this office for such a short time for all the failures of the office is dishonest in every possible manner.

E.E. Lawson said...

Maybe Steve Helms should have spent more time cleaning up the files instead of hanging up posters. Can't these public officials fight their culture wars on their own time and not when the taxpayers are footing the bill for their salary. BTW Tom, how exactly do dems create news.....that is an interesting charge. I will leave you Tom on a final thought..."In what respect, Charlie?"

tom said...

Mr. Wright created news by lodging the complaint in the first place. Many people before him walked in and out of that office where threat poster was hanging and yet NOT one of them raised a stink about it whether they agreed with it or not.

If it makes you feel better I'll foot the bill for the approximately two minutes it took to walk this poster into the room and tape it to the file cabinet or wherever it was placed.

The office was not in any shape for a smooth transition and the wasted couple of minutes may have been while on lunch. Perhaps unless we know exactly why the office has gotten behind we should just say NO COMMENT to the question.

Jack said...

1. I don't think anyone blamed Helms for the problems. Lee pointed out there were problems and he ran to fix said problems. Whose problems they were or who created them was not a part of the discussion. Certainly, Helms didn't fix them. Fair or not, politicians are held accountable for the problems in their offices.

2. Had Helms hung up a poster that depicted homosexuals, then I suspect you (Tom) and all the others who claimed his Decalogue poster did not promote religion would have rattled about how he was promoting the gay agenda. What was or was not "promoted" may very well be a matter of perspective. The diff ... the founding fathers were a bit persnickety about the whole establishing a religion piece, enough to write it down. No such business with homosexuals.

3. Helms did spend a lot of time (lawyers, news interviews, making this a big issue. He could have simply taken it down in the first place and it would have been a nonissue. The person who commits the "crime" (so to speak) is the one responsible. Those who call out wrongs are not the responsible parties.

4. This really isn't the issue in this election. The focus should stay on the duties and the efficiencies of the office. I was just poking a little fun at the whole thing when I mentioned it to Lee. He, of course, focused on the issues of the office and not on it all. That really says something.

tom said...

1. Since Mr. Helms has been in the office such a short time I doubt if problems can be corrected overnight (so to speak). I believe it is completely off base to lay the blame at the last individual in that office unless one can show where they were lacking in job performance. It appears by all accounts in the interview that, and I may have misinterpreted that, by saying the office is just not performing up to certain standards that the management of said office is to blame.
If I misinterpreted what was written then I stand corrected.

2. I really wouldn't care what type of poster is hung up in the office, I'm just that kind of individual, if it depicted gay sex then so be it I wouldn't however go screaming to the newspaper about how my rights or anything else were violated by a piece of poster board.
The founding father say NOTHING about having religious items within a building owned by the fed, state, or local government. At issue is was the poster promoting a state sanctioned religion, the answer is NO. no harm no foul except to someone who wanted to make an issue out of it. He was no more offended by that poster then I am that city council (certain members) aren't in jail for allowing the pension system to swim in red ink then proclaim ignorance of the whole debacle.

3. Once it is made an issue the individual does what they feel is in the best interest of themselves and the office they represent. Mr. Helms sought out council and they told him what should transpire and that is what he did. He has my respect for standing up for himself and his office.

4. I applaud Mr Lee for not taking the bait. I would have really liked to see him highlight the inefficiencies of the office and how changes could be made to the current system to correct the problem at hand the most effectively.

I also appreciate individuals which will accommodate these new forms of media outlets so people such as myself that refuse to read the newspaper have some access to their opinions.

Again if I misinterpreted the interview then my apologies to Jim.

Can I assume a request to interview Mr. Helms has been dispatched out as well ??