Clark County commissioners have decided to abolish Constable John Bonaventura’s office when his term ends in 2015, but he could get booted 18 months sooner.
State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, is backing a proposal that would abolish the troubled Las Vegas Township constable’s office effective July 1.
His proposal, Senate Bill 294, originally would have abolished the office immediately, but Roberson said Friday he is amending it to give the county more time to plan a transition.
Roberson said the bill is needed in the midst of troubles in the constable’s office that he thinks are a public safety concern.
“I did think long and hard about it,” Roberson said about his bill. “I am concerned for the public safety of residents in Southern Nevada.”
Roberson pointed to a variety of troubles that have plagued the office: a profanity-filled venture into reality television, Bonaventura’s refusal to follow financial directives from the county and his attempt to pay his attorneys for legal work by deputizing them following a dispute with the county.
CONSTABLE PREDICTS BILL WILL FAIL
As for Bonaventura, he is still pressing on with legal action against the county after its March 19 decision to abolish his office. A court hearing is set for April 30.
He said Roberson’s bill is not fair because it only targets his office, adding that a legal challenge against it is possible if the bill passes.
So far, he doesn’t appear worried about that prospect.
“I doubt it will even pass the Senate, a piece of garbage legislation like that,” Bonaventura said.
The bill faces a hearing Monday in the Senate Government Affairs Committee. At that point, it will be amended to abolish the office effective July 1.
SB294 also will be amended to allow the County Commission to restore the office in the future if desired.
The bill is one of two proposals in the Legislature.
The other one, Assembly Bill 223, would allow constables to handle evictions only in their township and require deputies in counties of more than 700,000 people to be certified peace officers before starting work. Without the change, Clark County constable deputies would have a year to get the certification.
Roberson said the action of commissioners to abolish the constable’s office when Bonaventura’s term ends shows their concern about the situation.
State law doesn’t allow commissioners to abolish an office and make the decision effective before the office-holder’s term expires.
SISOLAK SUPPORTS BILL
“I would not be bringing the bill forward if the Clark County Board of Commissioners were not supportive of it,” he said. “Clark County is in support of the bill. They want to see it passed, and I think there’s a lot of support in the Legislative Building.”
Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said he supports the bill. If the office were abolished on July 1, he said, that would eliminate a lengthy lame-duck period that the county would face otherwise.
The constable’s office has about 42 deputies who do work that includes serving legal paperwork and handling evictions.
County officials plan to shift the work over to Sheriff Doug Gillespie’s Civil Process Section, which serves legal documents, and possibly contract out some of the services.
When commissioners decided March 19 to abolish the office, Gillespie told them he was willing to work with them on a transition plan.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said putting a transition plan in place by July 1 is workable.
“July 1 gives us a little more breathing room,” she said.
Contact reporter Ben Botkin at email@example.com or 702-405-9781.
BILLS BEFORE LEGISLATURE ON CONSTABLE OFFICES
Assembly Bill 223
Sponsored by Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, the bill would require that constables do evictions only in their township. It would require deputies in counties more than 700,000 people to be certified peace officers before starting work. Without the change, Clark County constable deputies would have a year to get the certification. Constable deputies in smaller counties will have a year to get the certification. The bill, which was introduced March 8, hasn’t yet had a committee hearing.
Senate Bill 294
Sponsored by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, the bill originally would have abolished Bonaventura’s office immediately; it will be amended to abolish the Las Vegas Township constable’s office effective July 1. County commissioners can restore the office in the future if they want. A hearing is scheduled in the Senate Government Affairs Committee on Monday.