Constable's office shows TV's gain is city's loss


It's too bad, really, that the planned reality television show set inside the Las Vegas Township Constable Office didn't work out as planned.

Not only would it have shed light on the inner workings of our local "Office of Eviction," but it also might have provided irrefutable proof that Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura and his band of buffoons are better suited for a Circus Vargas clown car than paid positions associated with local government.

Alas, the ill-conceived reality TV idea is gone with the admittedly marginal credibility of the constable's office itself. While television critics might be relieved, others will consider it tantamount to the destruction of evidence as the office slides into the abyss under Bonaventura's watch.

In his first term, Bonaventura has been accused of sexual harassment, has hired deputies with arrest records and has tried to put a couple of friendly lawyers on his payroll.

The challenge isn't in finding incompetence or ethically shabby behavior associated with Bonaventura - a blindfolded dart thrower couldn't miss that bull's-eye. The question is whether anyone in authority is genuinely prepared to do something about it.

In theory, the Las Vegas constable fills his workday running an office as deputies serve legal papers and deliver notices of eviction. But Bonaventura is proving the office doesn't need a full-time boss and deserves to be legislated into obscurity with help from the Clark County Commission and lawmakers in Carson City.

In recent months, as Bonaventura's sorry decision-making has been exposed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, commissioners have pilloried the constable and questioned the need for the office. Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani has vowed to raise the issue once again in February with the state Legislature in session. The timing is right for change.

Some of the responsibilities of the constable's office might be privatized. Much of the work could be handled by Metro, which actually trains and does background checks on its officers before issuing them handguns. (Not so with the Las Vegas constable.)

Sheriff Doug Gillespie has his hands full running Metro, but perhaps he could look upon this as a mission of mercy.

Although Bonaventura has said he inherited a mess, a county audit found not much has changed. The office has a fee-generated $3 million operating budget.

As disturbing as it might seem, Bonaventura isn't officially the worst Las Vegas constable on record. That dubious distinction would go to Don Charleboix, who in 1993 was busted for practicing the illegal but time-honored tradition of deputizing his campaign contributors. He pleaded guilty and left office.

Then there was Bob Nolen, the former Las Vegas city councilman who once hired a private investigator to check into my background. As constable, Nolen was lazier than the "Hee Haw" hound dog. Before he departed, Nolen was fined by the state Ethics Commission for failing to put in anything resembling an eight-hour day. It made him one of the only politicians in Nevada history ever penalized for sleeping on the job.

In the Silver State, there's a word for people like that.

Incumbent.

The only Las Vegas constable who failed to find himself in the scandal sheets in recent decades is Robert "Bobby G." Gronauer. Voters proved they have a sense of humor by replacing Gronauer with bustout state assemblyman Bonaventura, who has surrounded himself with a raggedy gaggle of deputies and paid legal sycophants.

All of this would qualify as a genuine scandal if it weren't the constable's office we were talking about.

Given all this, it's easy to conclude that the Las Vegas constable's office is a joke. But it's also an office through which lucrative revenue streams flow. It's an office with a friendly working relationship with some downtown towing companies. It's a little-scrutinized office that traditionally has been a petri dish for public corruption.

So you can see how that reality television show idea was doomed from the start.

Given the grim reality of our constable's office, who the hell would believe it?

John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Smith

 

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