Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura has a job until 2015.
But he may eventually need to find a different line of work, given the Clark County Commission’s unanimous Tuesday decision to abolish the office when his term ends.
Bonaventura is not just yet accepting the commissioners’ decision, which came as about 20 of his uniformed deputies watched from the audience. A court hearing is scheduled for April 30, when a judge will take up Bonaventura’s request for a preliminary injunction that would stop the county from moving forward with the abolishment of his office.
“This is against the will of the people,” Bonaventura, who was elected in 2010, told commissioners before they voted. “It’s against the voters and the system of government that we all believe in. If the constable’s office is to be abolished, let the people decide at the polls.”
Bonaventura’s office has fallen under plenty of scrutiny since his election. Controversies included a criticized venture into reality television, hiring deputies with questionable backgrounds, a deputy failing to see a body in a residence, and clashes with the county about payments to attorneys for a lawsuit against other constables’ offices.
The office has about 42 deputies who handle evictions and serve legal paperwork.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who pushed for abolishing the office, stressed that the move was about looking for efficiencies — not Bonaventura personally.
“This is not about personalities or anything along those lines,” she said, adding that state law allows the commission to determine whether an office is necessary and to abolish it.
She has talked with Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie about whether his department would help handle the work if the constable’s office is abolished.
At the meeting, Gillespie said he is willing to have discussions about how to accomplish that if the commissioners move forward with ending the office. It would take more staff and space to accomplish, he said.
There are unanswered questions, such as whether any work would be contracted out and whether the deputies in the constable’s office would be rehired by the sheriff’s office.
Ken Frizzell, Bonaventura’s attorney, said the commissioners acted without making legitimate findings to back up the decision.
“It’s our position they can say what they want that it’s not about personality, but it absolutely is about personality,” he said. “Otherwise they would have tabled the vote to actually take those steps necessary to come up with legitimate findings.”
Frizzell questioned whether commissioners have followed open meeting laws. He said that agenda materials referenced the commissioners making a “finding” about the office. He contended a public finding was necessary before commissioners took action.
Frizzell also cited concerns about Giunchigliani and the sheriff meeting before Tuesday to talk about the issue.
But Giunchigliani said there has been no violation, and the process to vet the proposal was transparent. Commissioners had introduced the ordinance at the March 5 public meeting.
“Nothing was ram and jam,” she said. “We took our time. We vetted it.”
After the meeting, Bonaventura said that the effort to abolish the office will not be successful — as in Clark County’s past.
“They tried it once, and it didn’t work,” he said.
Two decades ago, the office came under scrutiny when former Constable Don Charleboix resigned, pleading to indictments that he sold constable badges and had a slush fund financed by deputies. The commission abolished the office and asked the Legislature to make the constable’s office an appointed position. After lawmakers didn’t do so, the county brought the office back in 1995.
At the meeting, Bonaventura got a reminder that he’s not out of a job just yet.
“John, you’re going to get paid for two more years no matter what,” Commissioner Tom Collins said.
Contact reporter Ben Botkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-405-9781.