The candidates for Ellis County District Clerk include Republicans Melanie Reed (incumbent) and Mimi McBroom, and Democrat Shawn-Dana Dalton. Dalton did not respond to the Daily Light questionnaire.
What is your background knowledge of the records the District Courts handle and what experience do you bring to the job?
Melanie Reed: Since 2007, I have served as the Ellis County District Clerk. During that period, I have successfully managed significant growth in the office due to the creation of a third district court, increase in filings, increase in passport applications and the overall growth of the county. We have built a superior staff that continues to meet the public expectations and provide the best customer service to all that do business with our office.
Mimi McBroom: 11 years in the District Attorney's office and an additional 7 years in the District Court I have spent my entire career working hand in hand with the District Clerk's office. I am intimately familiar with both the criminal and civil records. I am in a unique position because I have experienced the cause and effect of how the District Clerk's office operates. I understand the District Clerk is the "record keeper" not "record owner" for Ellis County. The records in this public office are public (unless closed by order of the court) and should be made available not only to the judiciary but also the bar and the public.
Documents located on the database can only be printed from inside the District Clerk’s Office. They cannot be printed from an individual’s device. Do you plan to make records more accessible? Do you think these documents should be more readily accessible?
Melanie Reed: Our office is in the process of allowing attorneys and the public, in general, to be able to view images online through a subscription fee. We are in the testing phase currently, but hope to have available soon. Yes, I do believe certain documents should be more readily available. The important focus is to ensure the protection of privacy while meeting all of the legal requirements as they pertain to the release of information.
Mimi McBroom: ABSOLUTELY! I can not believe in the year 2018 this is even an issue. The software program used by the District Clerk's office is over priced and out dated. I have looked at many different programs used by other counties and found Odyssey software to be the best for public access to records. LGS (the current software) is obsolete and proven to be unreliable. There is no reason for documents not to be available on line, its just so frustrating that it hasn't already happened.
If the confidentiality of a document were breached, how would you handle that situation?
Melanie Reed: Access to the images that will be opened up will be on a completely separate system at a separate location than my office. Confidential records will not even be on this system for anyone to have the opportunity to breach.
Mimi McBroom: I would immediately notify all parties affected by the breach. I would then find out how the breach occurred and deal with it accordingly. Everything that happens in the office would be my responsibility and a breach in the confidentiality of a document would bring to question my own capability to do the job as District Clerk.
The District Clerk oversees a team of clerks in the office, how would you describe your leadership style when managing a task force?
Melanie Reed: My basic leadership philosophy is one of being a servant-leader. For me, that means that I put the needs of others before myself, leading by example, helping my team to develop to be the best they can be while performing at the highest level possible to meet our goals. During my time in office, I have worked hard to build a team that most importantly, provides superior customer service. I also believe in a team that works well together, strives to meet all of the goals, supports each other, enjoys the work and truly wants to serve the public. Any large staff is going to have issues, so when something arises, we meet it head on and take care of the issue. I am proud of the fact that the majority of my staff have worked here my entire time in office. I think that says a lot about our team.
Mimi McBroom: What I know about managing an office I learned from Joe F. Grubbs. Never raise your voice, control your frustration and lead by example. Everyone should be treated with respect and hard work should be recognized. The District Clerk's office has some outstanding employees yet they have never been promoted to court coordinator or run for office. Why? On the other hand I will not tolerate rudeness or unprofessional conduct by anyone in the office. It can be a challenge keeping your cool when someone is taking out their frustrations on you, I know that from personal experience. When you represent an office and an elected official you must rise above and remain calm. When I would leave the office at the end of the day I would tell Judge Grubbs Good night and he would always answer "Thank you, have a good night." He always thanked me for the work I had done. Hearing the boss say thank you in what can sometimes feel like a thankless job is priceless.
What are pros and cons to making records more accessible to the public?
Melanie Reed: There is a balance to providing more access to District Court records. I believe in as much transparency as possible in government. While saying that, I believe there are limitations on what can or should be released. Family cases can have confidential information in them that needs to be redacted. Redaction software is very expensive to purchase. My duty is to protect the public as much as possible. So there is a balancing act that must be maintained. As much as we might want to be able to see everything, the law may not allow the release. My office will strive to be as transparent as possible in the best cost effective way while meeting state laws and protecting privacy.
Mimi McBroom: The pros are easy: reduce foot traffic in the courthouse and make it 100% easier people to access the information they need. I, again, am amazed this is not already in place. The Cons: making sure information is redacted to protect personal information. The con isn't really an issue if the right software is in place but in the age of identity theft we must be ever vigilant.