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Cook County Board votes to put recorder of deeds elimination question on ballot

Thursday, June 30, 2016
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

In a vote that fell along racial lines, Cook County commissioners on Wednesday decided to ask voters in November whether to consolidate the offices of county clerk and recorder of deeds.

The measure was approved by the Finance Committee, which includes all members of the County Board, so approval by the board is a mere formality expected later in the day. The referendum would be binding, so if it passes this fall, the recorder's office would be merged into the clerk's in late 2020.

The board voted 10-5 to approve the referendum question sponsored by CommissionerJohn Fritchey, D-Chicago. The board's four Republicans voted in favor, along with all white and Latino Democrats at the meeting. But the five African-American commissioners voted against after defending the current recorder of deeds, Karen Yarbrough, who is black.

Commissioner Richard Boykin, D-Oak Park, said people in his district believe it is "an all-out attack on black officials," given the board's recent failed effort to consider making Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown's office an appointed post.

Though Boykin said he knew that was not Fritchey's intent, Fritchey took umbrage, saying, "I will put my record on work I've done in the African-American community up against most anybody — white, brown or black. This is about reforming government."

Yarbrough, first elected four years ago, defended her work in the office, saying she already had cut costs and worked to combat mortgage fraud and help veterans. But other commissioners, who argued that consolidation could save more money, said that was not the point.

"This is not a vote on whether the clerk's office is running well," said CommissionerBridget Gainer, D-Chicago.

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