June 3, 2014 - 7:20 am
The best revenge for the forced closure of the Las Vagas Township constable’s office would be selling off all assets and spending nearly $4 million to keep the money out of the hands of Clark County officials, Constable John Bonaventura recently said in a meeting in his office.
The meeting was recorded without Bonaventura’s knowledge, and a copy of the conversation was provided to the Review-Journal.
In the recording, Bonaventura is heard saying he wishes he could spend some $3.9 million before the the office closes, but acknowledges that he cannot spend it all. Bonaventura aims the brunt of his anger toward Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak.
“Right now, with everything going on, I want to spend all the money,” Bonaventura is heard saying. “You know, we’ve got $3.9 million in there. I wish I could just spend it all and then if they did eliminate the office say, ‘F—- you Sisolak, you got nothing. What happened to the money … you’re trying to get the money and guess what, what do you got? You get nothing.’ I wish I could do that somehow but you can’t spend that much money.”
The recording offers a window into the mindset of Bonaventura, who has sparred with county officials since his election in 2010. Commissioners, weary of controversies from Bonaventura, voted unanimously in March 2013 to abolish his office, effective when his term ends in January.
Despite that vote, in Bonaventura’s view the fight is still very much on. On the recording he’s heard bragging that he will probably win the lawsuit he’s filed against the county.
Bonaventura didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment from the Review-Journal.
Sisolak said the comments about spending all the money before January are worrisome.
“That concerns me,” Sisolak said. “That’s just totally irresponsible and reckless to even make a comment like that.”
Sisolak said Bonaventura “needs to take a step back” and think about what he’s saying.
The recording was made in April, when Bonaventura decided to challenge incumbent County Commissioner Mary Beth Scow for the Democratic nomination in the June 10 primary election.
While confident in his lawsuit winning, Bonaventura also is heard on the recording saying no court ruling will come until after the primary. In Bonaventura’s view, a win for commissioner could help save the constable’s office.
“If I win, they’ll probably say, ‘Well, let’s somehow get him the hell out of there because he beat the f—-ing commissioner lady. Let’s try to figure out a way to get him out of there and let’s put him back to the constable,’” Bonaventura says. “Who knows what they’re going to do. But anyway, there’s a lot of crap going on around here.”
Scow’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The recorded conversation is the second to surface involving the beleagured constable. Last week the Review-Journal reported on a recording of a telephone conversation between Bonaventura and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins. That exchange included profane language from Collins aimed at other commissioners, including Scow and Sisolak. Bonaventura later played a recording of his visit with Collins to another person.
After the Review-Journal obtained a copy, Collins told a reporter he never gave permission to record his telephone conversation with Bonaventura. Under Nevada law, it’s illegal to record a telephone conversation unless both parties consent.
Collins is not a participant in the new recording, in which Bonaventura is heard talking directly with someone.
“The county’s screwing us left and right,” he is heard saying. Later, he jokes about staging a “sidewalk sale” to sell off the office’s equipment before it’s abolished.
“And then you’ve got the Commission saying, ‘Oh we’re going to abolish the office,’” Bonaventura says. “F—- that. I was kidding with them the other day. I said, ‘We’re going to have a f—-ing sidewalk sale — going out of business. We’re going to f—-ing sell all the computers, all the Tasers and … we’re going to go out there. We’re going to have a big sale and and sell everything. … They’re going to have no money left, man. They’re trying to steal our money, but we’re still in court over that stuff, so we’ll probably end up winning that.”
When Bonaventura laments financial pressures, he compares the office to a private business.
“If we were actually a private business, which yeah, we’re kind of a private business, but we’re not. … We’re like a f—-ing cyclops with an eyeball in the middle of his head. There ain’t no goddamn private thing. If it was private, then the county wouldn’t be stealing all our money.”
Bonaventura’s conflicts with the county over financial matters are well-documented. He deputized his attorneys so they would be paid for legal fees after Bonaventura couldn’t get county approval to pay for a lawsuit he filed against the constables in Laughlin and Henderson in a jurisdictional dispute.
When Bonaventura became constable, the office had a balance of more than $5 million. The office’s financial health has declined on Bonaventura’s watch, and expenses have outpaced revenues.
The county projects that the office will have a balance of just $1 million when the current fiscal year ends at the end of this month.
“We have been concerned about that office’s expenditures for the last two fiscal years,” said county spokesman Erik Pappa.
The office doesn’t rely on taxpayer money and is supposed to be self-supporting through fees charged for services, which primarily include handling evictions and serving court papers.
The commission’s action to abolish the office followed a variety of high-profile incidents — an online reality television pilot show with foul-mouthed deputies, financial conflicts with the county and turf disputes with neighboring constable offices among them.
County officials have said they want to see the Metropolitan Police Department take over the office’s operations after it’s abolished and help with a transition.
Contact Ben Botkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-405-9781. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.