State law eventually registers with city official

When Las Vegas Constable Bobby Gronauer starts the state crackdown on out-of-state plates Tuesday, he won't have trouble finding his poster child: a high-profile scofflaw turned reluctant role model.

She lives over the hill and scoots around Boulder City in an attention-grabbing white Nissan GT-R, a $83,000 "supercar."

We can no longer say that Boulder City Manager Vicki Mayes' ride sports Montana license plates because she scrambled into the Las Vegas Valley on Thursday and swapped them out for Nevada tags.

We can refer to her as the city manager formerly known as a scofflaw.

She might not take too kindly to that because in her eyes, living in Nevada, working for a government agency in Nevada, paying income taxes in Nevada and not to mention driving your vehicle on Nevada roads doesn't mean you have to register your vehicle in Nevada.

Mayes defended herself saying her position was affirmed by a "well-respected Nevada attorney." She didn't have to register the Nissan in Nevada because it is registered in the name of a limited liability corporation that she and her husband recently formed in Montana.

Gronauer, whose "Fair Share" program kicks off Tuesday, sees things a tad differently.

"I think she is a little wrong," Gronauer said last week. "Actually, I think she is a lot wrong."

Boulder City cops didn't seem to see a problem with the Montana plates. They told a reporter they saw Mayes' vehicle all the time. It's parked across the street from the police station. The Boulder City constable obviously didn't see a problem either because no action was taken.

Last month Gronauer unveiled the Fair Share program, which is designed to penalize those who violate registration laws and cheat Nevada communities out of tax revenues badly needed for road improvements and schools. The program was introduced last month and motorists were given 30 days to comply with Nevada laws.

If Mayes was oblivious to Nevada registration laws, the public campaign kicked off last month might have made her second-guess whether her attorney really understands state law.

Perhaps the thought of paying $7,000 in sales tax to Nevada's DMV sickened her. I mean, where's the fun in buying a luxury vehicle in a state with no sales taxes only to be nailed when you return home? Add another $1,500 in registration fees and government taxes and, ouch, brutal even when you're pulling in $179,000 a year.

But we all have to do it or risk being pulled over and fined. We all should want to do it because the point is it's an important stream of revenue used to maintain and improve our roadways and fund our education system.

State law requires residents who move to Nevada to obtain a driver's license within 30 days and Nevada plates within 60 days. The only motorists exempt from the law are members of the military, seasonal residents (that would be you, snowbirds) and out-of-state students.

"It's pretty clear that if you live in Nevada and you have a Nevada driver's license, you are required by law to register your vehicle in Nevada," said Tom Jacobs, a spokesman for the Nevada DMV. "If you are a scofflaw, you are not hitting the state that hard. You are hitting the county you're living in, the schools your children attend. Basically you are hitting your neighbors."

Residents are irked by motorists who live in Nevada for years without changing their license plates. Some drivers move from out of state and don't think they have to register their vehicles until their tags expire. Others buy their vehicles in sales-tax-free states such as Montana and try to avoid the costly fees by keeping the original plates.

Enforcing laws have been difficult because of concerns that tourists might be unnecessarily hassled.

The Fair Share program offers a hot line (455-FAIR -- 455-3247) that allows residents to report out-of-state plates in their neighborhoods.

"Right now, the Boulder City constable is not enforcing" the law requiring Nevada plates, Gronauer said. "The Las Vegas constable is."

Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler said last week that he had yet to talk to the city manager about her registration. His greater concern is the city budget. I held my tongue but really wanted to point out that the budget might be easier to balance if his city cracked down on residents failing to pay their vehicle registration taxes.

Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Tax Association, said Mayes should fully appreciate how vital both sales tax revenue and registration taxes are to Clark County's ailing economy.

"I think it was a very unfortunate decision made on the part of the Boulder City city manager, particularly at a time when everyone is looking for sales tax revenue," Vilardo said. "I would suspect any person in the position of city manager or in an administrative position with a local government would be aware of this."

Vilardo said even if Mayes was not in violation of Nevada laws, she should set an example as the leader of the city and register her vehicle in this state.

Mayes has not swayed from her stance that she and her husband were within the law but apparently decided that registering the car in Nevada was a good idea. She did acknowledge that she should be leading by example. Sort of.

"I understand as a public official that any action of mine or my family is scrutinized by the public for adherence to the highest ethical standard," Mayes' written statement said. "I also understand that appearance of impropriety can be as detrimental to the public trust as impropriety itself."

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at 702-387-2904, or send an e-mail to roadwarrior@reviewjournal .com. Please include your phone number.