Tag: Cook County Recorder of Deeds

Recorder of Deeds Yarbrough to Challenge Cook County Clerk David Orr

Yarbrough, KarenFriday, June 16, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

The Chicago Tribune has reported today that Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough will challenge incumbent Cook County Clerk David Orr in the Democratic primary next year.

Yarbrough, who lives in Maywood and is committeeman of the Proviso Township Democratic Party that’s headquartered in the village, announced her plans to run today, the Tribune reports.

“I plan to submit my credentials to the Cook County Democrats and hope to win the support to get the endorsement,” Yarbrough 66, told the Tribune. “I will be running.”

Orr, 72, has been in office since 1990 and will be seeking his eight term.

Yarbrough’s recorder’s office was folded into the clerk’s office after voters approved a referendum last year to consolidate the two bureaucratic bodies.

The Cook County Recorder of Deeds position, which has been held by a Maywood resident since 1999 — when the late Eugene “Gene” Moore was appointed to succeed Jesse White — will be eliminated in December 2018, the Tribune reports.

Some elected officials, including Orr, argued that the consolidation would save the county money, in part by eliminating the duplication of duties. Both offices are responsible for maintaining records.

The clerk’s office keeps birth and death certificates and government documents. It also facilitates elections in the suburbs. The recorder’s office keeps property-related information, such as liens and real estate transfer taxes.

Yarbrough argued that the consolidation would not be as cost-effective as some of its proponents claimed and she often touts “the industry-leading reforms we are pushing, like stronger property fraud laws, better data portals, and blockchain technology for land records,” according to a statement on the recorder’s website.

But Yarbrough hasn’t been able to shake allegations of wrongdoing within her office. Last month, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Yarbrough’s office “spent two nights at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa for an ‘Executive Staff Leadership Retreat’ that cost the county $12,303.09, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.”

Yarbrough told the Sun-Times that the getaway was a “small, strategic investment” that was made to improve the morale in her office in the wake of the consolidation. The recorder is responsible for a budget of around $12 million and employs roughly 134 people, the Sun-Times reported.

“I wanted to have some extended time to talk to staff and to get their inputs without telephone calls and, you know, all of those things,” Yarbrough told the paper. “I wanted them to be focused.”

And another Sun-Times report, published last month, focused on a report by prominent government watchdog and attorney Michael Shakman that found “several negative developments.”

Among those developments included the “an investigation by the county’s independent inspector general, Patrick Blanchard,” in which he “alleges ‘political reasons or factors affected’ the recorder’s October 2015 hiring” of Congressman Danny K. Davis’s nephew, the Sun-Times reported.

“Blanchard also says his office learned that an aide to Yarbrough — ‘with the support of the recorder herself’ — announced job openings at the recorder’s office to members of the Proviso Township political organization,” the paper reported.

In response to the Sun-Times query, a spokesman for Yarbrough stated that the recorder’s office “disagrees strongly” with Blanchard’s report.

The Sun-Times article also pointed out the considerable political influence of Yarbrough, whose husband is former Maywood mayor and sitting trustee Henderson Yarbrough.

“She’s the vice chair for the Democratic Party of Illinois,” the Sun-Times wrote. “On paper, she looks up only to Michael Madigan, the all-powerful party boss and speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Yarbrough and Orr are scheduled to argue their candidacies before Democratic party committeemen, who will ultimately offer an endorsement, next week. VFP

To read the full Chicago Tribune report, click here

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The County’s Honoring of Eugene Moore Full of Irony and Pathos

Yarbrough WTTW Chicago Tonight .png

A screenshot of Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough’s appearance on Chicago Tonight earlier this month. The Recorder of Deeds office, for decades occupied by either Yarbrough or the late Eugene Moore, pictured below, could consolidate with the county clerk’s office by 2020 if voters vote in favor of the measure on Nov. 8. 

gene_moore_rgbSaturday, August 27, 2016 || By Michael Romain || OPINION

It took some searching, but we finally tracked down the Cook County Board of Commissioner’s resolution honoring the late Cook County Recorder of Deeds, longtime Maywoodian and lifelong Proviso East Pirate Eugene “Gene” Moore.

Moore died on June 14 from prostate cancer. The next month, during a July 13 meeting, the county board voted unanimously on the resolution, which cited Moore’s contributions at the local, county and state level. You can read the full resolution underneath this post.

UPDATE: Moore’s old office (still) faces threat of consolidation 

Some may have noticed the irony in honoring the life of a former Recorder of Deed’s a month after the board acted to allow voters to decide on Nov. 8 whether or not the position should exist.

If a majority of voters decide that it shouldn’t, the recorder’s office (which includes its thousands of jobs and roughly $13 million budget) will be folded into the larger county clerk’s office.

The current recorder, Maywoodian Karen Yarbrough, a cinch for reelection in November, will be allowed to serve out her 4-year term before the consolidation takes full effect.

In June, Commissioner John Fritchey’s proposal to allow voters to decide on whether or not the office should be eliminated passed 10-5 (with two commissioners absent).

All five no votes came from the board’s African American commissioners, one of whom, the 1st District’s Richard Boykin (who represents Proviso Township), suggested that the measure represented an “all-out attack on black elected officials.” David Orr, the current county clerk, is white.

Proponents of the referendum, who include the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, say getting rid of the office will save county taxpayers around $1 million. Some proponents also say that it’ll just be one less county hothouse of graft and patronage hires watchdogs will have to worry about.

Yarbrough, however, has noted that the cost-savings don’t really amount to much and  the projections may and may not be reliable, since the county board hasn’t really studied the issue.

Yarbrough has also argued that she’s already found millions in cost-savings during her tenure and that the recorder’s office provides certain services, like mortgage fraud prevention tools, that will wither if they’re placed under the clerk’s jurisdiction.

Regardless of the arguments, however, it seems that the referendum to consolidate the offices is likely to pass, a prospect that even Yarbrough’s allies have acknowledged.

Earlier this month, two commissioners who opposed the binding referendum introduced a measure that would call for the referendum question to “be limited to studying the concept of combining the offices” instead of actually combining them, the Chicago Tribune noted in an Aug. 2 editorial.

That measure failed and Fritchey’s referendum stands. Since then, Yarbrough has laid out her arguments against consolidation on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

In June, she told the Daily Herald that the recorder’s office, which basically keeps the county’s land records, isn’t laden with patronage hires like it had been in the past (another ironic and subtle invocation of the former recorder?).

That’s not to say there hasn’t been smoke.

In 2013, Yarbrough came under fire from the county’s inspector general and at least one board commissioner for what appeared to be the recorder’s violation of the county’s ethics ordinance barring the hiring of family members and friends.

Yarbrough’s office maintained that they had followed proper protocol and that the employees in question were hired because of their qualifications.

Beyond the allegations of patronage hiring, and the counterclaims made by the recorder; beyond the arguments for or against the existence of the office; one issue of particular resonance to people in Proviso Township, and in Maywood in particular, is that the office that has anchored two of this village’s major political personalities, one of whom has gone on to greater rewards, may be annihilated in several years.

We could be approaching the end of an era. And perhaps the beginning of a new one. What for some people translates into tax savings, for others translates into a loss, an abyss, the end of a world and/or the opportunity to create one anew. For whatever it’s worth. Good, bad or indifferent.

Now, be it resolved 

“PROPOSED RESOLUTION IN MEMORY OF FORMER COOK COUNTY RECORDER OF DEEDS EUGENE “GENE” MOORE WHEREAS, Eugene “Gene” Moore was born on July 19, 1942 in Baltzer, Mississippi to Sara Ella (“SE”) Burrell and Joseph Moore; and WHEREAS, Gene Moore moved to Maywood, Illinois at an early age;

and WHEREAS, Gene Moore graduated from Proviso Township High School in 1960, and attended Otero College in La Junta, Colorado on a football scholarship until an injury ended his football career;

and WHEREAS, Gene Moore was elected to his first political office, Commissioner on the Provisio Township of the Provisio Township Board of Trustees, in 1988; and WHEREAS, in 1999, Gene Moore was selected by the Democratic Party of Cook County to fill the role vacated by our current Secretary of State, Jesse White, as the Cook County Recorder of Deeds;

and WHEREAS, Gene Moore would later run for a full term and win the office of Cook County Recorder Deeds in a landslide;

and WHEREAS, Until his retirement in 2012, Gene Moore made many innovative changes and brought the Recorder of Deeds’ Office into the 21st century; and WHEREAS, Gene Moore created the “Property Fraud Unit” by joining forces with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court;

and WHEREAS Gene Moore served on numerous boards including: The Boys and Girls Club of West Cook County, The Proviso-Leyden Council on Community Action, the John C. Vaughn’s Scholarship Fund, and the Community Economic Development Association;

and WHEREAS, Gene Moore peacefully left this natural world on June 14, 2016; and WHEREAS, Gene Moore is survived by his children; DaWanna, Natalie, and Eric; his siblings: Barbara, Anise, Freddie, and Michael; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren;

and WHEREAS, Gene Moore was instrumental in starting and furthering the careers of many Cook County community leaders.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the President and the Cook County Board of Commissioners, on behalf of the residents of Cook County, do extend their deepest condolences and most heartfelt sympathy to the family, friends, and associates of Eugene “Gene” Moore;

and NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a suitable copy of this Resolution be tendered to the loved ones of Eugene “Gene” Moore as a means of communicating our deep respect and reverence for his commitment to public service and the people of Cook County.” VFP

Hundreds Mourn Proviso’s Political ‘Prince,’ Former Recorder and First Black State Rep Eugene Moore

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A horse-drawn funeral carriage carries the body of former Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore after his funeral services, held at the Second Baptist Church in Maywood, on Saturday. Moore, pictured below in his county office in 2008, died Tuesday at 73. | Below image: Kuni Takahasi/Chicago Tribune

Moore Headshot.pngSaturday, June 18, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || @village_free || Updated: 6:05 p.m.

A horse and carriage waited to receive the ivory white coffin of Eugene “Gene” Moore after the well-known politician’s Saturday funeral service, held at Second Baptist Church, 436 S. 13th Ave. in Maywood, where Moore was a longtime member.

To many of the more than 1,200 mourners who packed the church’s large sanctuary and basement overflow, the royal sendoff was the only one appropriate for a man the Rev. Marvin E. Wiley, pastor of Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood, described as royalty.

If Moore, who died on Tuesday from prostate cancer, was a local political king, he was also a kingmaker; spawning the careers of a council chamber-full of young up-and-comers who have settled into mature political careers of their own.

State Senator Kimberly Lightford (4th), who called Moore her “political godfather,” said he “saw something in me that I didn’t know I had in myself.”

Moore encouraged Lightford, who was in graduate school at the time, to run for trustee in Maywood. It would be the start of a political career that’s spanned more than two decades. Lightford held up her own story as testimony of Moore’s penchant for identifying talent, before naming other political leaders who were influenced by Moore.

They include state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), former Proviso Township High School District 209 Board President Theresa Kelly and sitting Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon — all of whom were in attendance.

“I wouldn’t be county commissioner or anything if it weren’t for Gene Moore and the people of Proviso Township,” said Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st).

A native son

Moore family II.pngBut before he was a local political heavyweight, he was the son of Sara Ella Burrell and Joseph Moore, born on July 19, 1942 in Baltzer, Mississippi. The family migrated to Maywood when Moore was still a boy. He enrolled in Washington Elementary School and was baptized at Second Baptist Church.

At his beloved Proviso East High School, he was athletic enough to earn a football scholarship to Otero College in La Junta, Colorado. An injury, however, would send him back to Maywood early. According to a close cousin, the homecoming may not have been as mandatory as it seemed.

“According to his cousin T.J., injuries might have been part of it, but basically it was all homesickness,” said his cousin Curtis Montgomery. “He wanted to get back to girl he left behind and who he’d eventually marry.”

Moore found work at the American Can Company in Maywood before eventually establishing a solid clientele with Metropolitan Life Insurance.

“He had lots of clients and one of the reasons he had so many was because of his personality and his professionalism,” said U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th) in an interview on Friday. Davis said Moore solicited the first major contribution he received when he ran for Congress in 1996.

“When he was in insurance, Gene was a consumer-oriented person in terms of supporting consumer’s interests, even though he worked for a corporation,” Davis said.

Moore first delved into politics in the 1980s, when he ran, unsuccessfully, for a trustee seat in Maywood. Montgomery, who volunteered on that first campaign, said his cousin’s work ethic, even then, was exhaustive.

“He was a hard worker,” Montgomery recalled. “I’d say, ‘Gene, we just did this last week, we have to do it again?’ He’d say, ‘Yeah, Curtis, we got to do it again. You have to keep pounding until you get it in their heads.’”

Moore’s message stuck in his 1988 campaign for a seat on the Proviso Township Board of Trustees, a position that would provide a path to Springfield. In 1992, he saw an opening when the boundaries of the 7th District were redrawn.

“When the area was redistricted so that African-Americans could elect a black state representative for the Proviso area, I immediately supported Gene Moore,” said Davis, who was a Cook County commissioner at the time, “even though there were people in Chicago who wanted to run.”

Emboldened by his connections and his work ethic, Moore won, becoming the first African-American to represent the state’s 7th Legislative District. Although his ambitions and talents would take him to Springfield, his heart didn’t stray too far from Maywood, relatives said.

‘A politician’s politician’

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Eugene Moore, far left, with Larry Rogers, Jr., Sen. Barack Obama and Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr. | wardheeler.org 

Before taking his seat in the state legislature, he charged Montgomery with taking care of his mother Sarah while he was away — it was just one signal of familial devotion that would stay with Moore throughout his life, despite the energy and time devoted to politics.

During his eulogy of Moore on Saturday, Dr. Eric King — a longtime education administrator who was with Moore in his final days — recited the words of some of Moore’s family members, including his son Eric.

“My pops is my everything,” King recalled Eric saying. “He’s my hero. He’s greater than Walter Payton or Michael Jordan or Ali. My pops — he’s the greatest. He taught me to discipline myself, how to accept criticism and how to be on time.”

Despite his busy political career, Moore also raised his granddaughter, Cheyenne, and her brother, Chase, as if they were his own children.

“My father passed away at 11 and my grandfather stayed by my side,” Cheyenne told King, who also recalled the words of Moore’s grandson.

“I am what I am because of what my granddad taught me,” King said, channeling Chase, who noted that, while he played football at Proviso East and during college, Moore was a constant bleacher presence.

“Figuratively speaking, I was attached to his hip,” King recalled Chase saying. “I am a walking image of my granddaddy. He played the role of father, mother, guardian — everything. Even down to the suit I wear, I owe to him.”

In 1999, Moore was tapped by Cook County Democratic heavyweights like John Stroger, Jr. and John Daley to finish out Jesse White’s term as Cook County Recorder of Deeds after White was elected Illinois Secretary of State.

Moore would stay in the position for more than a decade, using his perch atop the county’s records office to overhaul its efforts to combat property fraud and theft. He also modernized the office’s data-collecting and data-processing capabilities.

But the most lasting aspect of Moore’s political legacy, the many hundreds gathered Saturday said in different ways, was his heart for putting them ahead of himself.

“He helped the homeless become homeowners, he helped so many people realize their athletic dreams, to accomplish their higher education aspirations and achieve their career goals,” King said.

When, in a physical display of Moore’s influence, King asked former Proviso East athletes and students, and former and present Maywood residents, to stand, the entire sanctuary of mourners rose to their feet.

“Gene was always willing to put the needs of others before himself and building lifelong relationships,” King said.

Jonette Greenhow, a Maywood employee, said Moore gave her one of her first jobs — not in politics, but in a beauty salon washing heads; although one of Moore’s campaigns, she recalled, would be the first one on which she volunteered.

Montgomery recalled a waitress who, after the end of one of Moore’s campaign events, was weeping in a corner.

“Gene came over to her and asked her what was wrong,” Montgomery said. “She told him that she had worked all night long and had lost all her tips. She didn’t know whether the money was stolen or on the floor. So, Eugene, being the person he is, asked her how much she lost and she told him. And he gave her a $100 bill to replace the lost tips.”

King, channeling another of Moore’s cousins, Maywood resident Loretta Robinson, said, “Gene was a politician’s politician. What’s that? Loretta said, ‘When he’s not running for office someone else might be running and he’s working for them.’”

Moore, the man 

Eugene MooreMany mourners also recalled the man who was more than the politician — a dresser whose sartorial sense was passed on from his father Joe.

Moore, who many also called “Geno” or “Gene,” was fond of straw fedoras — some of which, Montgomery said, he got straight from Panama — and suits that were patterned and well-pressed.

Besides politics, Moore’s chief passion was dancing.

“You all know Geno. He was suave and he loved to get his step on,” said Lightford, who recalled the many West Side steppers’ sets to which she accompanied Moore. That willingness to mingle and mix it up “on the ground,” Lightford said, was what endeared him to his constituents.

It was also what fueled a political career that, years after Moore retired, is still remembered with respect even by his erstwhile political rivals.

Karen Yarbrough, who succeeded Moore as 7th District State Representative, Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman and Cook County Recorder of Deeds — the latter two positions she currently holds — remembered Moore as a “very well-known and well-liked community person.”

In 2006, Yarbrough defeated Moore in the race for Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman. In a written statement, she said, “While many felt we were enemies, I’d rather think we both were very competitive along with having divergent points of view.”

“We were blessed that he was able to visit the [Cook County Recorder’s] office recently to see our history mural and to connect once more with the many friends he had, and still has, in this office,” Yarbrough said. “I am thankful to have been able to honor him and his public service in that way.”

During remarks Saturday, Rev. Wiley recalled his last conversation with Moore as the beloved politician lay dying.

“June 14, 2016, I made my way to Gene’s bedside,” Wiley said. “I didn’t want to go, because I’d heard what condition he was in; but I made my way, anyway. For these last 25 years, I’ve called him not Eugene, but Uncle New-gene. I said to him, as he lay there, ‘Man, they’ll never forget you. You’ve done too much.’ I went to college, but I said to him, ‘We ain’t gone never forget you,’” Wiley recalled, before referencing a Biblical passage from II Samuel.

“A prince has died,” he said. “A great man has died.” VFP

Moore leaves to cherish his memories: his children DaWanna (Omar), Natalie and Eric Moore; siblings Barbara (Michael), Anise, Freddie and Michael (Deborah); six grandchildren: Johnnie, Chase, Jelissa, Darius, Jenise and Cheyenne; four great-grandchildren: NeVaehiza, Nyla, Marquise and Nylin; and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews, family and friends. 

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Objection To Welch Candidacy Overruled; Karen Yarbrough To Defend Recorder’s Seat Unchallenged

Chris Welch on House FloorTuesday, January 12, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

An objection to the petition papers of state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), pictured, was overruled by an electoral board hearing officer on Jan. 8. The objection was filed in December by Forest Park resident Brian Kuhr, who claimed that Welch had filed more than 1,500 signatures, the maximum number permitted by the Illinois Election Code.

Kuhr also claimed that Welch’s nomination papers contained duplicated or forged signatures. He claimed that some of the signatures were from people with missing addresses or who aren’t registered to vote in the 7th District, which includes a large swath of Proviso Township (Maywood included).

A summary report issued by the Cook County Board of Elections on Dec. 20 indicated that Welch’s nomination papers “contained a total of 839 valid signatures which equated to 339 signatures greater than the required minimum of 500.”harris_111709

The overruled objection clears the way for a head-to-head race between Welch and former Forest Park commissioner Chris Harris, pictured right, in the upcoming March 15 Democratic Primary.

In a statement released in the wake of the hearing officer’s decision, Harris noted that the “hearings may be over, but the details of Representative Welch’s sloppy nominating petitions are still turning heads throughout the 7th District. The facts are: A sitting state representative turned in paperwork so riddled with errors and fraudulent signatures that nearly half of the signatures were disqualified immediately.”

Welch defeated former Forest Park commissioner Rory Hoskins by a razor-slim margin of victory in 2012 to win a seat in the General Assembly. In 2014, Welch successfully ran unchallenged after Maywood insurance agent Antoinette Gray was removed from the ballot.

“I was always confident that the objection filed by Mr. Kuhr on behalf of Chris Harris was frivolous,” Welch said. “I look forward to continuing the conversation with the voters of the 7th District as I go door-to-door.”

Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough Unchallenged After Objection to Opponent’s Petitions Sustained

Yarbrough, KarenFirst-term Cook County Recorder of Deeds and Maywood resident Karen Yarbrough will likely cruise into a second term after an objection filed to the petition papers of her erstwhile Democratic challenger Jan Kowalksi was sustained by an electoral board hearing officer.

The objection, which was filed by former Maywood Trustee Audrey Jaycox, noted that Kowalski’s nominating papers contained the signatures of people who aren’t registered to vote in Cook County, among other complaints.

Kowalski, a Chicago attorney, was the only candidate to file paperwork in order to challenge Yarbrough. The former state representative assumed the Recorder’s office after beating longtime incumbent Eugene “Gene” Moore, also a Maywood resident. VFP

CORRECTION: Rep. Welch defeated Rory Hoskins in 2012, not 2013. This post has since been updated. VFP regrets this error. 

Recorder Yarbrough’s Office Adopts a Local Homeless Family

Recorder Adopts Family

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR

Staff at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office are making sure a homeless family under the care of West Suburban PADS in Maywood has a brighter holiday by donating items collected during a recent charity drive at CCRD.

Recorder of Deeds Karen A. Yarbrough reached out to West Suburban PADS, a local agency devoted to supportive housing and employment services for the homeless, to learn of any opportunities to help, and was quickly paired with a young family consisting of a 23 year old mother, 3 year old daughter, and 8-week old son. CCRD employees were encouraged to donate items that would assist with their transition to a stable housing environment, as well as toys and baby needs such as diapers.

“When we start breaking big problems down to the community and family level, it becomes easier to see how even small efforts can make a meaningful difference,” said Karen A. Yarbrough, Cook County Recorder of Deeds and Maywood resident. “The Recorder’s office has many employees dedicated to public service and philanthropy, and I’m so proud of their efforts.”

In addition to collecting items for West Suburban PADS, CCRD also collected non-perishable food items and toys to donate to Jesse Brown Veterans Administration Hospital’s holiday charitable efforts. VFP

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: Cook County Recorder of Deeds Hiring Director of Management Information (IT) and Fraud Investigator

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR

The Cook County Recorder of Deeds is currently hiring a Director of Management Information (IT) and a fraud investigator, and are looking to spread the word to ensure a large and qualified applicant pool. Interested candidates should click here to view the job descriptions and minimum qualifications, as well as link to the Recorder’s hiring portal (short summaries of each position are provided below). The Recorder’s Office does not hire or accept recommendations based on political reasons or factors.

Director of Management Information (IT)

Reports to the Deputy Recorder-Communications. Conducts confidential investigations into property and recording fraud by locating and interviewing victims, witnesses and other individuals with relevant information. Prepares detailed written narratives describing the circumstances of the alleged property or recording fraud and keeps detailed records of investigations and court cases. Causes court documents to be served or delivered, and physically or electronically delivers files to coworkers and other agencies. Submits reports of investigations to superiors. Testifies before judges as requested or needed. Intakes visitors to the Fraud Unit into CCRD’s property fraud alert program. Meets with walk-in customers who may be attempting to commit fraud. Informs the community through attendance at community outreach events about office programs, including CCRD’s Property Fraud Alert and Veterans Service Office. Performs other duties as needed.

Fraud Investigator

The successful candidate will report to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Chief of Staff and oversee and direct the planning,implementation and maintenance of Information Technology projects and initiatives. The IT Director’s role is to plan, organize, and manage staff and overall operations to ensure the stable operation of the organization’s Information Technology (IT) infrastructure. This includes developing, maintaining, supporting, and optimizing key functional areas, particularly network infrastructure, server infrastructure, data communications, and telecommunications systems. The IT Director will also oversee and direct activities to resolve hardware and software problems in a timely and accurate fashion. VFP

‘In Illinois, A House Is Easier To Steal Than A Car’: Recorder of Deeds Yarbrough Warns Residents About Property Theft

scam-alert-pic (2)(Below: Yarbrough at a property fraud meeting on the South Side. Photo by the Chicago Citizen).

Yarbrough at Property Fraud MeetingThursday, July 31, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

MAYWOOD — A crowd of about 75 to 100 senior citizens gathered inside the gymnasium of the Maywood Park District last Thursday to hear Cook Country Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough talk about property fraud–a seemingly dry, innocuous topic, until a news clip began to play on a projector screen setup near the gym’s exit. The news clip brought the warning home.

“In Illinois, it’s easier to steal a home than it is to steal a car,” said a voice.

The clip featured Chicago City Treasurer Stephanie Neely recounting how she became a victim of a scam that many homeowners may know nothing about. In a separate interview on Can TV21 in 2011, Neely detailed how it happened. It turns out, the scam is brazenly simple.

“I didn’t even know I was a victim….until a reporter called me to tell me there was an entity in Cook County that has stolen the deed title to 30 different homes in the Chicagoland area,” she said. ”

“[Someone] can go into the Recorder of Deeds [and for $40] file a fraudulent affidavit and change the title on your home. I’ve lived in my home for almost 13 years. I must admit, I almost never checked the name on the title and in April someone changed the name on my title, the deed to my home. I had to hire an attorney who was willing to [work the case] pro bono for all 30 of us.”

And the victimization doesn’t stop with Neely. The Recorder of Deeds herself said that she’s been a victim of the rampant abuse and exploitation of a vast system ripe for abusing and exploiting.

“When I became Recorder, I found a $143,000 mortgage that had been recorded against my property. If I died or my husband died and tried to pass this property forward, here’s this $143,000 mortgage that would have to be dealt with,” she said, noting that the claim was the result of a mistake.

One of the reasons the scam is so simple is because, shockingly, county recorders aren’t authorized by law to verify the legal claims made on the seemingly innumerable documents they are tasked with recording–a handicap that criminals are only too eager to exploit.

The result, for many victims of this kind of fraud, can mean a deluge of legal bills and stress, to only mention what is nearly certain to happen. The less likely, but far more disconcerting, result may be the loss of a home.

“This woman was in her house and they actually changed the lock while she was looking out the window,” said Yarbrough, recounting the case featured in the news clip that she showed. “The Chicago Police department came, but the guy didn’t go away. He showed police the title and they said, ‘Well, we guess he owns the property.’ But our office had had some dealings with this lady. She knew to call us.”

Since assuming office in January of last year, Yarbrough has taken up this cause with a missionary’s zeal, revamping a Free Property Fraud Alert system that would notify homeowners who register for the service of any Quitclaim Deeds filed against their properties, which may indicate fraud. Yarbrough called the system her office’s signature program. On Thursday, she was in Maywood urging area seniors to signup with the characteristic enthusiasm she brings to campaigning. She said that, although the alert system had been in place before she came into office, it had barely been utilized, was in disrepair and even somewhat misleading.

“There were 500 registrations done when I walked in office,” she said. The program was already there. They called it mortgage fraud, but it’s really not. This is really property fraud. The hyperlink on the website was wrong, so we got that fixed and we took on it on the road. We started pushing the system out there, because we thought it had a lot of value. Last year, we did just under 10,000 fraud alert signups and over 15,000 to date.”

She said that she’s been throughout Cook County, frequenting events such as this one in Maywood, which was actually a regular meeting of the Maywood Senior Club. The Club often features a guest speaker each week. The night before, Yarbrough was in Oak Park and later that night, she was scheduled to visit Monument of Faith in Chicago. She said she often collaborates with Commissioner Larry Rogers and the Cook County Board of Review when doing these outreach events. Recently, the office hired a PR firm to increase the program’s visibility to the millions of other homeowners across the county who don’t know about the system.

But the system is only an aspect of the Recorder’s approach to combating property theft. Yarbrough, a former state representative, has also raised the stakes for anyone caught committing the crime. While she was still in the Illinois General Assembly, Yarbrough said that she helped introduce legislation that would increase the penalty of stealing someone else’s property from a misdemeanor to a felony.

“It kind of digresses from the Recorder’s office, because it’s really an administrative office, but we just kicked it up a notch,” she said of the recent legislation. Currently, the Recorder’s office refers potential fraud cases to other entities, such as the Attorney General’s office. Those entities then choose whether or not to prosecute.

“This is on the same line as identity theft,” Yarbrough said to the rapt audience of seniors. “For most people, your home is your greatest asset and the last thing you need is for somebody who has put their name on it,” she said, after also pointing out other, more limited, cases of fraud.

“There are people called deed re-sellers, who will sale you a deed for $60,” Yarbrough said. “If you want a copy of your deed, you can get a copy from my office for $10. A certified copy is $20. You can probably take the difference and go shopping.”

The Recorder’s warning resonated with Bellwood resident Johnsey Louden, who said that a friend of hers was victimized by property fraud four years ago.

“It really gives you something to think about,” Louden said. “I signed up today, a lot of people did, which is good. You can’t just assume everything is still in order. I bought the house where I live 30 years ago. All kinds of things can happen. Family members can take advantage of other family members. You never know.”

Yarbrough said that her office has been experiencing more and more residents in western Cook County with property fraud-related problems and noted that the best protection against the crime is vigilance and awareness. And the realization that nobody is above a scam artist–not even the Recorder of Deeds.

“It happened to me,” she said. “If it can happen to me and it can happen to Stephanie Neely, it can certainly happen to you.” VFP

For more information on property fraud, to check your own deed status or to signup for the FREE PROPERTY FRAUD ALERT, click here. To obtain a copy of your deed, or file a complaint, visit the Recorder’s satellite office at Maybrook Courthouse, 1500 S. Maybrook Drive, Basement Room 061, Maywood, Illinois 60153.