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Published: Saturday, 11/2/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

2013 VOTERS GUIDE

Service key issue in race for Toledo clerk of courts job

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As the first lawyer elected clerk of Toledo Municipal Court, Vallie Bowman-English says she has brought a different perspective to an office that works best when it works with judges, attorneys, and the public alike.

Clerk of the court since 2004, Ms. Bowman-English, a Democrat, is being challenged for re-election to another six-year term by Republican Constantine Stamos, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy from the University of Toledo and works in television production.

Mr. Stamos, 39, an unsuccessful candidate for Toledo City Council four years ago and Lucas County Clerk of Courts last year, said he sees some of the same problems at the Municipal Court clerk’s office that he saw at the county clerk’s office.

Neither, for example, has a system that would allow attorneys to file documents electronically, he said. “I thought I could do a better job and make some improvements,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in public service, and all of what that office entails — the logistics, operations — are interesting to me.”

Ms. Bowman-English, 43, a former assistant Lucas County prosecutor, said that while she is looking into implementing an e-filing system, the clerk’s office has taken giant steps forward technologically and organizationally. “When I got here, things were in total disarray,” Ms. Bowman-English said. “This office was in very bad shape, and to this day I still find things that are done wrong.”

She said the wait time for customers has been dramatically reduced because the office is more organized, more case information and documents are accessible online, and her staff is less burdened by ringing telephones.

She also has implemented a system in which clerks enter case information as it happens in eight high-volume courtrooms, which means everyone has immediate access, including victims of crime, attorneys, even defendants who in the past would find themselves getting rearrested on warrants because police did not know they’d already appeared in court. That information might take two weeks to be entered by the clerk’s office.

Ms. Bowman-English, while proud of the strides the office has made, said she there's more to do.

“When I get to a point where I’m comfortable and I think everything is great and perfect, it’s time to go,” she said. “Things are much better than where they were, but they’re not perfect and they’re not where I want them to be and I strive daily to change that.”

The clerk of courts is paid $96,985 a year.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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