Clark County public administrator draws 2 challengers

The Clark County public administrator steps in when someone dies but has no one willing or able to execute his or her will.

Sometimes that person has no known heirs. Sometimes an executor has not been appointed. Sometimes the will names the public administrator as executor or the family chooses to appoint the administrator. The office also steps in when an estate is being handled neglectfully, and property is being lost or inappropriately transferred.

“We don’t do bodies. We just do stuff,” incumbent John J. Cahill said.

The office has found heirs in Asia, Europe, Africa and Southern America. If heirs cannot be found, the inheritance goes into the state education fund.

To unknowing heirs, money waiting to be claimed often sounds too good to be true.

“We have a hard time to get someone to respond,” Cahill said. “We send letters on letterheads and we make phone calls but people are suspicious.”

Cahill has held the office since 2007. He is challenged in the Democratic primary race by Warren Hardy Brunell, a certified building inspector and electrician with the Clark County School District, and Anthony Wernicke, who unsuccessfully ran for state Senate in 2008 and Las Vegas mayor in 2011.

The primary winner will face Republican Ed Klapproth in the November general election.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal couldn’t reach Wernicke.

Cahill and Brunell were asked what their primary goal would be if elected and whether the county needed to improve how the public administrator’s office is run.

Brunell said he would look after senior citizens who don’t have a voice.

“When I hear stories on the news about seniors being taken advantage of, it really gets my goat,” Brunell said.

Brunell said he’s always wanted to enter public service and enjoys hard work. He said he’d have to evaluate office improvements, once in office.

“I would do my part to make sure there’s not waste,” he said.

Cahill said his goal would be to “continue to keep the office operating efficiently for families in Clark County.” Paperless document handling came to mind as a possible improvement, he said.

“It sounds like a small thing,” Cahill said, “but if you’ve ever bought ink and paper for your own printer, imagine what that’s like for the government office.”

Cahill said a challenge to going paperless is that the county audit department wants the administrator to keep paper copies. The office handles documents such as court petitions, exhibits and real estate papers.

Cahill said the office recently adopted a new case management system that is more user-friendly and tracks productivity.

“I’m going to be working really hard to make sure that it works for everyone,” he said.

Contact Kristy Totten at ktotten@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3809. Follow @kristy_tea on Twitter.

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