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Published: Saturday, 10/30/2004

Clerk of Courts: Quilter faces challenge from Gabriel

Quilter Quilter

Voters will decide whether to keep Bernie Quilter as clerk of Lucas County Common Pleas Court or elect longtime Toledo administrator Theresa Gabriel.

Ms. Gabriel, former clerk of Toledo Municipal Court and a retired city employee, is challenging Mr. Quilter, 45, who has been clerk of the courts since 1999.

Ms. Gabriel, 67, was an administrator with the city before taking over the clerk's office in January, 2003, but was voted out of office 10 months later.

Gabriel Gabriel

Mr. Quilter, 45, took office in April, 1999, and won a full four-year term in 2000.

The clerk of courts is responsible for receiving, docketing, indexing, certifying, and preserving pleadings, court orders, liens, lawsuits, and other legal documents filed in common pleas, domestic relations, and appellate courts, and collects and disburses money for court costs, fines, fees, and restitution. The office also is responsible for issuing title certificates for vehicles and boats and trailers.

A city employee for 39 years, Ms. Gabriel touts her experiences as clerk and city administrator. She was director of parks, recreation, and forestry and commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor. She retired in 2002. As Municipal Court clerk, Ms. Gabriel said, she established a program that forces motorists to pay their traffic fines or have their registrations or driver's licenses blocked when they attempt to renew them. The program allowed the clerk's office to collect $600,000 in unpaid fines.

A former Oregon councilman, Mr. Quilter started a pilot program two years ago to collect overdue fines, legal fees, and other costs, bringing more than $300,000 into the county coffers. Mr. Quilter said he instituted changes to improve efficiency and technology that was aimed at providing better service to the public. An auto and watercraft title office was established in Oregon in 2000. A Web site that provides up-to-date information on the courts' criminal and civil dockets also was started, averaging a million hits each year.

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