County pressed to put Las Vegas constable’s office back on ballot

Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura’s office tried to pressure the Clark County Election Department to list the constable’s office on the upcoming ballot just four months after county commissioners abolished the office, court records show.

A staffer in the constable’s office called county Registrar of Voters Joseph Gloria in July and pressed him to put the office on the ballot despite the commission’s action in March to abolish it. That is according to court filings pertaining to Bonaventura’s lawsuit against the county.

The lawsuit, which is in the Nevada Supreme Court, seeks to overturn the county’s decision to abolish the office. Bonaventura is trying to persuade the court to allow candidates to file and his office to be listed on the ballot in case he prevails in court after the March 3-14 filing period for candidates ends. Under state law, the abolishment isn’t effective until his term ends in January 2015.

For Gloria, it started with a telephone call in July from Lou Toomin, the constable’s public information officer, according to Gloria’s affidavit filed Monday.

Toomin told Gloria that the commissioners were wrong in abolishing the office and had misinterpreted the law, according to the registrar’s account.

Toomin indicated that Gloria should “take a stand” and “do the right thing” by placing the office on the ballot, according to the account. Toomin also encouraged Gloria to do this because he was newly appointed as the registrar of voters, court records say. Gloria became the registrar the prior month.

Gloria checked out state and county regulations and called Toomin back, telling him the office wouldn’t be on the ballot.

Bonaventura also made earlier efforts to run. He had submitted information and preregistered as a candidate. Preregistration, which started Jan. 18, is a way for all nonjudicial candidates to give information so that filing is swifter with the candidate’s basic information on hand. However, candidates when preregistering cannot declare an office.

In his affidavit, Gloria noted that Bonaventura’s form, now a court exhibit, had the handwritten phrase “Las Vegas Township Constable.”

Although Bonaventura had preregistered, he didn’t do so as a candidate for any particular office, Gloria’s statement said.

Toomin said Gloria’s affidavit is missing “pertinent facts.” Gloria had said Assistant County Manager Jeff Wells instructed him to not put the office on the ballot, Toomin said. Toomin said he doesn’t believe Wells has the authority to exclude an elected office from the ballot.

In a statement, Gloria disputed that account.

“In reference to Mr. Toomin’s comment to the RJ, I never had a conversation with Jeff Wells, nor did I claim that he instructed me to keep Mr. Bonaventura off the ballot,” Gloria said.

Gloria added that after reviewing the state law in question, he told Toomin that the commission was within its rights to abolish the office and that as a result of the commission’s action, there was no need to fill the office in January 2015.

In an email to the Review-Journal, Bonaventura said Gloria’s affidavit has no direct bearing on the issue.

Bonaventura contends that by not allowing his office to be on the ballot, the county is acting prematurely on its ordinance, which doesn’t take effect until his term ends.

The county argues that Bonaventura’s claim of premature enforcement is without merit.

Bonaventura was elected in 2010 to his first term as constable. In the past three years, his office has faced high-profile controversies, including jurisdictional disputes with neighboring constables, a reality television pilot that featured foul-mounted deputies, and lawsuits from former staffers.

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