Clark County has agreed to pay a dozen former cadets who found themselves unable to finish training after a law enforcement academy sponsored by the Las Vegas Township constable’s office suddenly stopped classes they were taking.
The former Las Vegas Law Enforcement Academy cadets would be paid a total of $36,120 if all accept the agreement, county spokesman Erik Pappa said in an email.
The full tuition for the program was $4,500, but some cadets were on payment plans.
The money will come from the Las Vegas constable’s enterprise fund, not the county’s general fund. The enterprise fund is fed by fees for services, such as serving legal papers.
In return for the payments, the cadets must agree not to sue the county.
Most of the cadets have signed the agreement, Pappa said.
“We are glad that the county has resolved this matter favorably for all parties involved,” Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura said in a statement Wednesday. “We are grateful to Assistant County Manager Jeff Wells for his efforts in coordinating and resolving this matter.”
Since his election in 2010, Bonaventura’s office has been involved in a variety of high-profile incidents. They include a widely criticized foray into reality television, lawsuits from former staffers and jurisdictional disputes with neighboring constables. Commissioners voted in March to abolish his office, which is effective when his term ends in January 2015.
Wells was unavailable for comment on the payments to the former cadets.
“Staff, in consultation with the District Attorney’s Office, felt there was some legal exposure and settling the claims avoided incurring additional costs,” Pappa said in a statement.
While sympathizing with the plight of the cadets, Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said he disagrees with the arrangement to tap the constable’s enterprise fund. He said the cadet’s tuition payments didn’t go to that fund but instead were paid to a limited liability company, Las Vegas Law Enforcement Academy. Business records show that company’s registered agent is Jason Watkins, a former employee of the constable’s office.
Watkins couldn’t be reached Wednesday.
“They got the money, but now the constable’s money has got to make the refunds,” Sisolak said. “They said the LLC didn’t have any money any more. I think it should have come from Watkins and Bonaventura.”
Sisolak also said he was concerned that he wasn’t told of the agreement before it was made, though he said he’s “not blaming anybody.”
Sisolak said Wednesday he first learned of the deal when he was asked about it by the Review-Journal. He said the payments were on a county commission agenda that lists all refunds the county makes. Most of the refunds are for routine, low-profile matters such as clerical errors and overpayments.
In this case, refund approvals were submitted for 12 cadets listed by name among 61 items in a seven-page document. In addition to the name of each cadet, the list gives this description: “Refund for amount paid for training class that was canceled before completion.”
The document attributes the source of the cancellation to the Las Vegas constable, without mentioning the Las Vegas Law Enforcement Academy.
Records show the individual repayments ranged from $110 to $4,500. They were approved when commissioners, without public discussion, signed off on the refund list November 5.
Sisolak said he is anticipating a report from staff and also stressed he is not trying to force the cadets to repay the money.
“I don’t think it can be undone,” Sisolak said. “I just don’t like the way the whole thing was paid by the constable’s office.”
Pappa said the county is reviewing how it might be able to recoup some of the money from the company that ran the academy.
In August, after Watkins resigned as Bonaventura’s deputy chief operating officer, the constable pulled his support for state certification of the academy, a requirement for sanctioning by the Nevada Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training.
Beforeo the resignation, Bonaventura sent Watkins an email demanding financial information about the academy and warning he might withdraw his office’s support.
Watkins then resigned, citing conflicts with other staffers in his letter.
Despite the sudden shuttering of the academy, the cadets have found other opportunities to train for careers in law enforcement.
The Silver State Law Enforcement Academy has accepted eight of the former cadets in a program starting in January, said Rick Henry, who oversees training at the academy, which is sponsored by the Laughlin Township constable.
Contact reporter Ben Botkin at email@example.com or 702-405-9781. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.