Clark County commissioners set the salaries of the North Las Vegas and Henderson constables at $103,456 a year on Tuesday, giving the elected officials big pay cuts and a transparent salary at the same time.
The move gives the two constables the same annual salary as the Las Vegas constable, while ending the ability of them to determine their own salaries without oversight.
Their annual salaries last year exceed $250,000 for North Las Vegas Township Constable Herb Brown, by the county’s estimation. Henderson Township Constable Earl Mitchell last year earned about $180,000, with $20,000 of that going to his benevolence fund, said Assistant County Manager Jeff Wells.
Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said it’s unfortunate the officials were earning such large salaries at a time when government employees have often made pay concessions. While the county can’t undo what the constables have paid themselves, the action will prevent it in the future, he said.
Neither constable addressed commissioners at the meeting. In an interview, however, Mitchell called the $180,000 figure inaccurate. He wouldn’t say what his salary is.
Constable offices have sworn law enforcement officers and support the bulk of their operations with fees collected from evictions and serving court papers.
“It’s not public dollars,” Mitchell said. “It’s not tax dollars.”
However, the county provides equipment and civilian staffing to help support constable offices, which is paid with tax dollars. The county budgeted $236,000 from its general fund for some clerical and budgetary support for the Henderson office. The rest of the office is operated with fees collected from the office’s services.
The county is able to oversee the tax dollars it spends on the office, but has no say in how Mitchell spends the revenue he collects from fees. Mitchell and other constables are required to submit county reports listing the revenues, but not break down how or where they spend the money. The Henderson office generated $811,960 in fees last year.
The county’s action also creates an enterprise fund for the two offices, which provides more oversight from the county on expenditures. That system is already in place at the Las Vegas Township constable’s office.
Asked if the county’s $20,000 figure for what he gave to benevolence is also inaccurate, Mitchell didn’t directly say, but stressed he supports community charities.
“I give and I don’t look for the glory of it,” he said.
Mitchell has given conflicting statements about his salary in the past. He told county commissioners in a June 3 meeting that he earned about $120,000 last year. He reported on his disclosure form to the Nevada secretary of state that he earned $80,000 in 2013, however.
By comparison, the $80,000 figure Mitchell reported to the state as his salary is roughly half of what he earned in 2013 after removing the $20,000 estimated gift to charity efforts.
He also had told commissioners in June that he earned about $100,000 in 2012, while disclosing to the state that his constable salary that year was $80,000. He later told a reporter that his salary fluctuates and he might have misunderstood the question.
Brown also reported a salary of $80,000 to the state last year. However, the North Las Vegas constable for 16 years downplayed the county’s $250,000 salary assertions, and the setting of a constable salary.
“I don’t have a dog in this fight,” said Brown, who is not seeking re-election. “I’m leaving so you all have fun. That’s what I’m telling them.”
There are 11 constable offices in Clark County, and the county’s action gives the same salary for the leaders of the three largest, urban constable offices, though the Las Vegas office will cease to exist in January 2015. Commissioners in March 2013 abolished it after Constable John Bonaventura had a variety of controversies.
The new salaries are effective in January and apply to whatever candidates win the November election for constable offices. Mitchell, a Republican, faces a challenger, Terry Watson, a little-known Democrat.
Review-Journal writer Arnold M. Knightly contributed to this report. Contact Ben Botkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-405-9781. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.