Bonaventura loses lawsuit to keep constable’s office around

Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura on Thursday lost a lawsuit aimed at overturning Clark County’s decision to abolish his office.

The case was dismissed by District Judge Rob Bare, who found that county commissioners followed the open meeting law and didn’t violate Bonaventura’s rights to due process.

Bonaventura wasn’t at the court hearing and couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday night.

It was unclear if he planned to appeal the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Commissioners in March 2013 unanimously decided to abolish the office, effective when his term ends in January 2015. That came after a variety of high-profile controversies that included foul-mouthed deputies in a reality television show pilot, jurisdictional disputes with neighboring constables, and financial conflicts with the county.

Constable offices have sworn deputies that serve court papers and handle evictions. In this case, the duties likely will be handed over to the Metropolitan Police Department when the office is abolished.

Bare also discounted Bonaventura’s argument that the wording of the agenda item that commissioners acted on was legally problematic because it said commissioners had made a finding that the office was no longer necessary before any deliberations happened.

“There’s no evidence that there was any actual prior finding,” Bare said.

However, Bare added: “This does present an opportunity in my view to revisit how these agendas are drafted.”

Bonaventura’s side wasn’t allowed to introduce as evidence an April 18 affidavit Commissioner Tom Collins had signed that said the constable’s office is necessary and that the commission intended to restore it after Bonaventura left. The judge tossed it out after the county argued that Bonaventura’s attorney Robert Pool had improper contact with Collins.

Bare’s decision didn’t prevent Collins from testifying, but the commissioner wasn’t present. Court records show Collins had decided against testifying in a recent meeting with attorneys from both sides.

Pool made a couple of last-ditch efforts that were unsuccessful. He tried unsuccessfully to enter a Review-Journal article about Collins’ affidavit. That effort was rejected.

Saying he didn’t want to “beat a dead horse,” Pool also tried to persuade Bare to force Review-Journal reporter Ben Botkin to testify. Pool’s request was based on an article about the affidavit and comments Collins made to a reporter. Deputy District Attorney Bob Gower argued that doing so would be an improper attempt to circumvent the judge’s decision that the affidavit is inadmissible.

On May 30, Bonaventura filed a motion seeking to exclude a Review-Journal story and audio clip posted online the day before. The story focused on a recording obtained by the newspaper of a telephone call between Bonaventura and Collins, who was heard profanely criticizing some of his fellow commissioners and encouraging Bonaventura in his run for election against Commissioner Mary Beth Scow.

In the recording obtained by the Review-Journal, Bonaventura is heard introducing and playing the conversation for someone else. He later told the newspaper it was a voice mail that he had since deleted.

Collins had told a reporter that he never gave anyone permission to be recorded.

In its response, the county said it wasn’t planning to use the article or recording.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.