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EDITORIAL: For Clark County district attorney, public administrator, recorder

The Review-Journal editorial board offers the following endorsements in this fall’s elections for Clark County district attorney, public administrator and recorder.

Democrat Steve Wolfson is on the ballot for the first time as Clark County’s district attorney. Mr. Wolfson, a former Las Vegas city councilman, was appointed district attorney by the Clark County Commission in 2012 when David Roger retired. Libertarian Jim Duensing is challenging Mr. Wolfson.

The district attorney’s office prosecutes criminal cases, defends Clark County against civil litigation and enforces child support, among other duties. Mr. Wolfson took the job at an exceptionally challenging time. The coroner’s inquest process, which reviewed police use of deadly force, had been shut down by police union litigation. Mr. Roger’s trial quotas compelled prosecutors to bring before juries cases that should have been negotiated, and the office pursued capital punishment too frequently at great public expense. The district attorney’s office was a rubber stamp for police, which hurt public confidence in both departments.

Upon Mr. Wolfson’s arrival, the district attorney’s office immediately began responding to officer-involved shootings — with Mr. Wolfson himself traveling to the scene when police kill someone. Mr. Wolfson also instituted a new fact-finding review of police use of deadly force to ensure the public had some accounting of civilian deaths at the hands of police. This new scrutiny, coupled with training, policy and oversight reforms within the Metropolitan Police Department, has restored a great deal of public trust in law enforcement.

Mr. Wolfson also put the interests of justice ahead of tough-on-crime posturing, eliminating the office’s counterproductive trial quotas and reducing death penalty filings by half, wisely reserving capital punishment for the worst of the worst. The office has stepped up its community service through Mr. Wolfson’s D.A. Ambassador Program, which places prosecutors in schools to talk about the law.

We want Mr. Wolfson’s office to get its little-used victim and witness assistance program, long run out of an off-budget checkbook, completely into the open, with full disclosure to attorneys and the public. A Review-Journal investigation uncovered the program and the fact that defense lawyers didn’t know about it. Even the slightest perception of prosecutorial misconduct undermines justice, and suspects have an absolute right to know whether the state is covering some expenses for those who testify against them. Mr. Wolfson has promised complete transparency going forward.

Duensing is best known for being shot by Las Vegas police after fighting with officers and running from a traffic stop in 2009. He faces trial later this month on felony charges of resisting a police officer, unlawful possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon. It would be an embarrassment if a felon were elected the county’s top prosecutor.

Fortunately, Mr. Wolfson deserves election on his own merits. The Review-Journal endorses Steve Wolfson for Clark County district attorney.

The office of public administrator might be the least-known elected post in the county — especially to those who’ve avoided the complications of probate. The public administrator secures and distributes to next of kin the assets of those who die without a will, and it safeguards property when no heirs can be located. Democrat John J. Cahill has held the office since 2007 and is being challenged by Republican Ed Klapproth.

Mr. Cahill, who worked in the county’s juvenile justice system and as a part-time investigator in the public administrator’s office before winning election, has brought compassion and integrity to the job. Mr. Klapproth, a College of Southern Nevada professor and previous candidate for Congress and the State Board of Education, acknowledges Mr. Cahill is “a good man” but believes the office can do more to encourage county residents to obtain wills. We see no reason for voters to replace the capable Mr. Cahill. The Review-Journal endorses John J. Cahill for public administrator.

Clark County Recorder Debbie Conway, a Democrat, is seeking a third term. She is being challenged by Republican Don Hotchkiss, Libertarian Douglas Johnson and Independent American Shannon Maclean. The recorder is the county’s official custodian of public records, from property deeds and transfers to mining claims. Ms. Conway has overseen the modernization of the office, including the industry’s first kiosks, which have been placed in outlying communities, while providing timely service to taxpayers and professionals who require speedy recording. Mr. Hotchkiss, a civil engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers veteran and former deputy manager of the State Public Works Board, says the office is inefficient and that Ms. Conway treats her workers poorly. He has the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, which represents county employees. We like Mr. Hotchkiss, but we don’t see smoke coming out of the recorder’s office. The Review-Journal endorses Debbie Conway for recorder.

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