PEKIN — Newly avaiable military discharge records were on display Monday at the Tazewell County Clerk's office.
Gov. JB Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1007 into law Friday. The measure makes all discharges records such as DD-214 forms public documents following 62 years after filing. If the documents contain any personal information, this information will be redacted on copies made available to the public. This change matches current federal policy for retention of discharge papers they maintain.
“Because of the state law at the time, no one was allowed to see (the records.),” said Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman. “This entire display (of records) was in the closet until early (Monday) morning. To me, that’s not a place of honor.”
State Sen. Chuck Weaver and state Rep. Tim Butler, who both sponsored the bill, attended the Monday ceremony held in the McKenzie Building.
“This is the way legislation’s supposed to work,” Butler said. “We get good ideas from local people and local office-holders. This basically brings us into compliance with federal law, but we had to take that step in Illinois to make sure these records were available to people.”
Weaver lauded the new law as an example of citizens legislating. He added Ackerman's persistence and the staff in the clerk's office played a major role in getting the bill before state lawmakers. Staff members in the Tazewell Recorder of Deeds office have nicknamed the new legislation Sharon’s Law as a tribute to deputy clerk Sharon Sciortino whose work there inspired the bill.
“Sharon is the one that, a few days into my term as county clerk, said ‘Have you seen our Civil War military discharge papers?’” said Ackerman. “I said, ‘No. What have we got ... 25 or 30 (records)?’ She pulled out (a book containing) the 980 Tazewell County Civil War military discharge papers that we’ve had the honor of holding.”
Weaver said he heard of it at a town hall meeting a few months ago.
"Four ideas came up, and people said, ‘You need to run this law.’ I tell all of them the same thing: ‘I’ll run it, but you’ve got to do all the work, because you have more passion and knowledge than I do about the issue.’ Very seldom do they follow up. But John did,” he said.
Sciortino was presented with a plaque commemorating her contribution to the new law.