Thursday, May 15, 2003

2 courts dispute computer report

Butler County projects on time, officials maintain

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Representatives of Butler County domestic relations and juvenile courts say that their computerization projects will be completed before the end of this year, and that concerns raised recently about the projects by some county officials were unfounded.

Rob Clevenger, juvenile court administrator, said his court expects to complete its computerization by September, and Domestic Relations Court Judge Sharon Kennedy said her court's project will be finished by October.

In their presentations to the Butler County Data Board Wednesday, both took exception to published remarks by Jerome Cook, administrator for the county's Clerk of Courts Office, in which he suggested that the two projects were long past deadlines and were in trouble.

They also said the letter Cook and Clerk of Courts Cindy Carpenter sent to Dan Crank, data board president, requesting an update on the two courts' computerization projects, contained many inaccuracies. The data board is mandated by the state to oversee computer purchases for county government offices.

Kennedy said the domestic relations court's computerization project is under the contract budget, on time and that portions of it already are in operation.

"Statements from the Clerk of Courts Office to the press are wholly inaccurate," she said.

The $367,000 project was delayed for six months because the county commissioners didn't have the money for the final piece of hardware, Kennedy said.

Cook also had raised concerns about the willingness of the two courts to share computerized records with other appropriate county departments and with the public.

But domestic relations court will integrate its system with other appropriate county departments and will make certain information available to the public through the Internet, Kennedy said. But she said some information - such as people's Social Security numbers, birth dates and the names of their children - will be withheld for privacy and safety reasons.

She said Proware, the company under contract to provide domestic relations court with a computer system, has been responsive, dependable and conscientious.

Clevenger said juvenile court's project will be completed under the projected $1 million cost. The project is being handled by SoftTec.

Clevenger disputed Cook's statements that the project had taken too long. The project took 29 months to complete, four months less than Hamilton County's computerization project and 13 months less than Montgomery County's.

He said juvenile courts in Hamilton and Montgomery counties had existing case management systems to work from, while Butler's juvenile court had nothing.

"We have had to start from scratch," Clevenger said.

He said his court is committed to integrating its computer system with other county departments.

Carpenter called Kennedy's report "excellent."

Cook said he didn't mean to offend Clevenger and Kennedy by his published remarks.

"I didn't receive a timeline and an end date for either of these projects," he said.

Crank, who could not attend Wednesday's meeting, issued a statement that, after meeting with Clevenger and Kennedy, he was convinced both projects were on track.


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