A few of the other candidates have referenced the following "issues" regarding the Clerk's office. I do not feel their information is accurate - please read below in more detail about the questions they raise.
Lack of good customer service
This is a typical area attacked in most any elected office where the candidates opposing the incumbent, or in this case, the most qualified candidate working in the office, try to make the current staff look like they are not adequately serving the public. Having been part of the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office for the past 24 years - I know, first hand, that NOTHING could be further from the truth. I cannot count the number of citizens who have sent letters of thanks, brought in sweet treats and made countless comments about how GREAT our office is where customer service is concerned. Are we all perfect? And has every citizen always walked away happy? Of course not! And as long as human beings are working in any public office, or private sector office, for that matter, some customers will have complaints. But we strive daily to assist the public first & foremost and we do that in a friendly and courteous manner to ALL. One opponent’s website has attacked our current Clerk’s influence on her Deputy Clerks and implied prejudices being demonstrated.
Poor Access to Public Information
It seems that many of the other candidates seeking the Clerk position have NOT done their ‘homework’ to know exactly what advances in technology have been made before making accusations that we have “poor access” or that “the bare minimum has been done where technology is concerned”. I personally have played a key role in advancing technology & accessibility in not only the Shenandoah County Circuit Court, but in many of the Circuit Courts across VIRGINIA.
The current Clerk’s audits were glowing until around 1999 after the Clerk was assigned the task of collecting restitution. Since that time the auditors cited this office on some of the reports with regard to inconsistent and untimely restitution payments as well as a few minor items, all of which were CORRECTED by the Clerk. The matters regarding restitution account for the largest dollar amounts mentioned in various audits. So who knows and understands what this really means at surface level? Few people, including the opponent so strongly attacking it. So allow me to clarify with some FAQs.
WHAT IS RESTITUTION?
Money to be paid by one or more defendants to victim(s) of a crime, where property was stolen or damaged and compensation for the value is ordered to be repaid, usually in installment payments.
WHEN IS RESTITUTION PAID BY CRIMINAL DEFENDANTS?
Often the criminal defendant does not pay restitution until months or years after being ordered because they are sentenced to serve time in jail or prison and upon release, fees are to be collected by the Clerk’s Office.
HOW MUCH RESTITUTION HAS BEEN COLLECTED & PAID OUT BY SHEN CO CIRCUIT COURT?
From 2005 to 2014 our court collected $733K in restitution and we disbursed over $744K to victims in various cases. Restitution balance during any given year has never exceeded $200K, as restitution is collected and disbursed on a continuous basis.
WHY WERE RESTITUTION FUNDS SHOWN AS UNPAID ON AUDIT REPORTS?
In the cases where criminal defendants are ordered to pay restitution joint & severally or with a juvenile defendant, many hours of research and behind the scene work is necessary to ascertain the victims whereabouts, and if the victim can no longer be located, to prepare the proper notices and reports to turnover to Virginia unclaimed property. Our office is under staffed and one person could easily devote 40 hours/week to researching and paying out restitution, however our other workload does not allow for that and at the end of some audit periods there was still more money to disburse.
TO WHOM DOES THE APA GIVE AUDIT REPORTS?
After each audit review, the Auditor of Public Accounts (APA), supplies the annual report to the Clerk of the Court, the County Administrator, the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, the Chief Judge of the Circuit and it is posted online for public inspection. The Shenandoah County audit reports have never required further reprimand for any findings. The Clerk has always taken corrective action as recommended by the Auditor with regard to any matters cited. Further, the auditors who have reviewed our books in the past have praised the Clerk for the manner in which the records are kept and organized.
WHO HANDLES THE ACCOUNTING RECORDS IN THE CIRCUIT COURT?
Currently, as Chief Deputy Clerk, I am responsible for all of the financial and accounting matters within the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. This includes but is not limited to, entering all daily deposits and journal vouchers, restitution collection & disbursement, money held & disbursed as General Receiver, condemnation funds, bonds, and tax set-off funds. This is another area that could easily keep one deputy clerk busy in excess of 40 hours/week. However, as Chief Deputy Clerk, I also oversee all the Deputy Clerk’s in the Clerk’s absence, back-up the Probate Clerk, attend most all sessions of Criminal Court and assist in preparing for criminal court and the follow-up responsibilities after criminal court. The court currently is holding 6-8 days of criminal court each month.
Did you know ... the Code of Virginia mandates over 800 duties and responsibilities for the Clerk of the Circuit Court?
The chart below sums up EACH of the candidate's ‘hands on’ experience with 19 KEY DUTIES of the CIRCUIT COURT clerk. I’ve proudly served the citizens of Shenandoah County in the Circuit Court for 24 years, and as CHIEF DEPUTY CLERK for the last 18 years!
On Nov. 3rd ELECT EDUCATION, EXPERIENCE & KNOWLEDGE
Sarona Irvin for Clerk of Circuit Court