Clay Schwartz filed to run on the Republican ticket for Yellowstone County Clerk and Recorder/Surveyor today. Schwartz, a professional land surveyor since 1989, has been the owner of Pinpoint Land Surveys, PLLC since 2002.
Schwartz believes that his business experience and surveying credentials make him an ideal fit for the position. "I have been a professional land surveyor for 23 years and resided in Yellowstone County for 20 years. I have been researching land title issues in the Clerk and Recorder's office since well before the internet came along. I understand the indexing system; I know how to find things in that office." Schwartz said. He adds that his surveying career has given him expertise in analyzing legal descriptions and determining the effects the various recorded documents have on property rights.
Schwartz said, "I have 19 years of management experience with 10 years as the owner of Pinpoint Land Surveys. I work with budgets, prepare proposals, attend public meetings on a regular basis and have dealt with employee issues." Schwartz adds that the people that use the Clerk and Recorder's office are the very same people that he has had business dealings with in the past. He also said that his surveying business has allowed him to work with many of the other agencies within the county, including; the Planning Department, Public Works Department, County Commissioners and County Attorneys office. "I am not a stranger to that courthouse", says Schwartz.
Schwartz said that when the County Surveyor position is added to the mix, he is the only qualified candidate on the ballot. "State law requires that the County Surveyor be a professional engineer or professional land surveyor and be registered by the Montana State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, which requires extensive education, experience and testing. The county was able to sidestep this requirement by consolidating the Surveyor's office with the Clerk and Recorder by resolution in 2003", said Schwartz.
Along with the consolidation, came the discontinuance of review of surveys and subdivisions for errors and omissions prior to recording in the Clerk and Recorder's office. By law, the review can only be performed by a registered land surveyor.
"In 2003, the commissioners gave a 10% pay increase to the Clerk and Recorder to assume the duties of a position he really is not qualified for", said Schwartz. "In 1975, the commissioners originally enacted the errors and omissions review by resolution. The language in the resolution deemed it necessary 'due to omissions and errors which have arisen in the past'. What has changed?" asked Schwartz. "Technology has not eliminated human error and oversight."
Schwartz said what really tipped the scale on his decision to run for office was something that happened in January 2012. It involved a court exhibit he prepared to have the court order a survey to split an estate amongst the heirs. He says the exhibit was purely conceptual and clearly stated in his certification that it was not based on an actual survey. Once the court order was received, the estate's attorney submitted the exhibit and court order to the Planning Department and the document inadvertently went through the county's review process.
"It was not intended to be submitted for recording." Schwartz adds, "This exhibit was reviewed by six county departments, including the Clerk and Recorder/Surveyor department, and there was not one mention made of the lack of directions on the property lines."
Schwartz says "That is when I realized there is a serious problem. When you subdivide property in this county, it is reviewed for everything ... but nothing is being done to insure the legal document creating the lots is error free. There is nobody in the county's current administration with the depth of knowledge necessary to properly review these surveys and I hope to change that."
Schwartz holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Montana State University and is a registered land surveyor.
The Big Sky Business Journal
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Billings, MT 59103