Two former Las Vegas constable officers have settled their lawsuit against Constable John Bonaventura and Clark County for $415,000, records show.
The settlement agreement closes a high-profile chapter for the Las Vegas Township constable’s office that has roots in a reality television show pilot that showed constable deputies using foul language. The high-profile incident led to commissioners abolishing the office, effective when Bonaventura’s term ends in January 2015.
Capt. Daniel Palazzo and Lt. Timothy Beckett alleged in their lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in April 2012, that Bonaventura pressured them to go to a County Commission meeting and lie on his behalf about a reality video on the office that appeared online. After they refused to lie, the officers were demoted and faced reductions in salaries before losing their jobs, according to the lawsuit.
Under the terms of the agreement, the constable’s insurance company handling the case agrees to pay $405,000. The county agreed to cover the remaining $10,000, according to settlement records.
None of the parties admitted to wrongdoing in the settlement agreement. Payment breakdowns for the individual plaintiffs were unavailable in the agreement, which was reached in December.
“We think it’s a fair settlement,” said Allen Lichtenstein, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. He said the outcome helps clear the names of the officers.
One requested lie from the constable was to tell commissioners their boss was ill, and the other was to tell county commissioners that the video was for training purposes, according to the lawsuit.
Bonaventura has vigorously disputed the allegations in the lawsuit. The insurance company paid to settle the claim without his agreement, he said.
“I am out of the loop as to any settlement agreement or amount, as I never agreed to, or signed a settlement agreement,” Bonaventura said in an email to the Review-Journal on Wednesday. “Because of the mounting legal costs to the insurance company, the insurance company decided to settle and close the matter without my signature, even though the law is clearly on our side. They handled it just like a no-fault car accident.”
In December 2011, county commissioners were aware of the video after it surfaced online and wanted answers from Bonaventura, who was elected in 2010.
Instead, the officers refused to lie and reminded Bonaventura that they had advised against getting involved in the reality show when a producer expressed interest, the lawsuit contended.
After the officers refused, Bonaventura sent four other employees to the commission meeting, the lawsuit contended. Beckett was demoted to field sergeant and Palazzo was stripped of all administrative responsibilities before both left the office, according to the lawsuit.
Bonaventura also tried to sever ties with his office’s insurer, Travelers Property Casualty Company of America, after the company agreed to settle the case in 2012. Bonaventura, at the time, didn’t want to agree to the terms, which would have required purging negative information from their employment files and him writing a letter attesting to the officers’ integrity.
Bonaventura also had worried the settlement would set a bad precedent and encourage more lawsuits that lacked merit, court records show. He tried to drop the claim filed with the insurer, but that effort was unsuccessful.
The settlement didn’t appear on any commission meeting agendas. That’s because the county’s $10,000 share fell short of the $50,000 threshold that requires placement on an agenda, spokesman Erik Pappa said.
Contact reporter Ben Botkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-405-9781. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.