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CLARK COUNTY RECORDER

The Clark County recorder’s race pits a one-term incumbent against a former employee of the office and a political novice.

Democrat Debbie Conway is squaring off with Republican Jim Edwards and Libertarian Kris McKinster in the Nov. 2 general election for the top job in a department that keeps county records.

Alphonso Aguilar of the Independent American Party also is running but couldn’t be reached for comment.

Conway said she has made technological upgrades that save time and simplify recording tasks. Some of the improvements garnered national attention, she said.

“We have become a leader in the country,” Conway said.

One system cut patrons’ wait time from three hours to 15 minutes, she said. Another record-scanning system turned a months-long process into same-day service.

She hopes by early next year to install kiosks in outlying areas so residents can look at records without traveling to the main office.

An old controversy from Conway’s past occasionally resurfaces. Several years ago, some news outlets reported that she and then-Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates co-owned a construction company and a multimillion-dollar home in Summerlin.

Questions arose about whether the partnership posed a conflict of interest, and about how two public servants could afford such a pricey home.

Authorities found nothing improper, Conway said. And she bought her share of the house with 40 years of savings.

“I think it was a vicious attack to undermine me and try to keep me from getting into office,” she said.

McKinster said he has never run for political office but decided to take a crack at the recorder’s job because its technical side fits his analytical personality. He does customer service for slot machine players.

McKinster described himself as an average Joe with no ties to special interests or the two-party political system. He said he would work to increase the department’s efficiency, though he couldn’t give specific examples of what he would target.

“I wouldn’t know the details until I got into the office, but I would try to identify the inefficiencies and try to correct them,” McKinster said.

Edwards spent 24 years in the U.S. Army, much of it in the infantry. He was a public information officer for the recorder nine years ago, and said the job taught him about the department’s inner workings. He made unsuccessful bids for recorder in 2002 and 2006.

“It’s time to get fresh blood over there and look at this stuff with a critical eye,” Edwards said.

One of the most pressing problems is the “excessive” fees the recorder charges, he said, calling them another form of taxes. These fees burden small businesses struggling in the tough economy, he said.

Three years ago, a business license cost $75 every six months and now it costs $300 for the first six months, he said. Plus, there is a new $5 fee for electronic recordings.

The state sets many of the fees, so if elected, he would lobby lawmakers to lower them, he said.

“This is an office that has become a cash cow for the entire state,” Edwards said. “What they’re doing is wringing the life out of the people in Clark County.”

Edwards said the computer system doesn’t make records available to key departments such as the assessor, county clerk and treasurer. And he said the recorder lacks a central storage site for historic documents and artifacts.

Conway countered that Edwards was going by what he remembers from years ago, before she became recorder.

The computers now link the recorder, assessor and county clerk, she said. And in 2007, she moved all the historic materials into a temperature-controlled vault.

As for lobbying the Legislature to lower fees, she said it would be futile to ask the state to shrink a revenue source in the face of a $3 billion shortfall.

“I don’t see it happening in the near future,” she said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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