Metro-East News

Challenger says St. Clair recorder isn’t working; incumbent calls it ‘garbage’

Amanda Ruocco, Republican nominee for St. Clair County recorder.
Amanda Ruocco, Republican nominee for St. Clair County recorder.

The Republican nominee for St. Clair County recorder says the Democratic incumbent hasn’t been showing up for work, after making an analysis based on the results of a Freedom of Information Act request.

Amanda Ruocco said Recorder Michael Costello entered the county parking area only 50 times in 2015, and his phone records show he had only 11 phone calls passed through to his extension in a six-month period. Costello said he’s at work every day, and dismissed the claim as “political garbage.”

“The other extensions in the office handled hundreds of calls per line,” Ruocco wrote in a Facebook post. “This is concerning, as one would think that elected officials would work closely with the public. These people are not only your customers, but also your bosses.”

Ruocco, who has never before held an elected office, is running in the Nov. 8 election against Costello, who has been the county recorder for 32 years.

Costello’s garage entrance check-ins were redacted for security reasons by the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office in the FOIA response.

Costello said sometimes he wouldn’t use his key card for the parking garage because the bailiffs at the security checkpoint recognize him and would raise the gate without him needing to use his card.

“I’m in the office every day,” Costello said.

Costello added that eight employees in the recorder’s office work mainly with customers, and that his chief deputy usually answers his phone.

“Generally it’s customers wanting questions answered,” Costello said. “The girls take care of that. I rarely use this office phone unless someone specifically asks for me.”

Costello dismissed Ruocco’s analysis of the phone and garage usage.

“It’s all groundless political garbage,” Costello said.

He added, “They can say whatever they’re going to say, I’m not going to respond. It shows how much office experience Amanda has.”

Costello added when he is out of the office, it is usually for lunch with his wife, Marie, or he is meeting with representatives of title companies who have questions about his office’s automated systems.

Costello said if he is re-elected, the next four years would be his last term.

In an email to the BND, Ruocco conceded that customers likely call for specific reasons or issues.

“The question is, why isn’t Mr. Costello picking up the phone and working with the public and helping to resolve these issues?” Ruocco wrote. “How can our recorder continue to assess the needs of the public if he never talks with the public, his customers, those he was elected to serve? Quite frankly, if Mr. Costello’s chief deputy does all of the work for him, communicates to the public on Mr. Costello’s behalf during Mr. Costello’s extended absences and while he is allegedly in the office, why do we even have a recorder in our county, and why are taxpayers paying Mr. Costello nearly $100,000 a year, plus full benefits and a pension?”