86°F
weather icon Clear

Clark County auditors knew little about Henderson constable’s spending

Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell asked the county to pay nearly $7,500 for a private attorney he consulted after the Las Vegas Review-Journal sought records that showed questionable spending of public funds, emails show.

And a county financial analyst was concerned that Mitchell, who abandoned his re-election bid hours before the story broke, might drain the constable’s bank accounts on his way out office, the records show.

Constable bank documents revealed that Mitchell wrote himself more than $70,000 in checks from funds the county provided to pay his deputies and withdrew some of the cash at ATMs in casinos and video-poker bars. Mitchell also used money from the accounts to travel to locations where his adult children lived, records show.

The Review-Journal investigation showed that the county auditor’s office failed to examine the Henderson and North Las Vegas constable funds, even though the county gained control over financial functions for the two constables in 2015. The county took over after concerns about how much the constables were paying themselves.

The emails obtained last week showed auditors knew little about Mitchell’s spending until the story ran.

“The RJ published their article,” county audit department director Angela Darragh wrote March 22 to her staff. “Gives us a lot more details about what was going on.”

“Oh joy, bliss and happiness!” responded internal auditor Tracy Banks that same day. “This is great information to hit the ground running.”

County officials said the auditors were not available for comment, but Assistant County Manager Jeff Wells said last week that the auditors work on a schedule and their plan to audit Mitchell was moved up in response to the Review-Journal investigation.

The story sparked a criminal investigation of Mitchell, but the county emails also reveal for the first time that Mitchell’s office was subject to a county human resources review and fined by the state for worker’s compensation violations.

Mitchell and his attorney, Damian Sheets, did not respond to requests for comment. Assistant District Attorney Christopher J. Lalli last week said there was no update available on the criminal investigation.

Private attorney

After the newspaper asked for spending and bank records in December from all Clark County constables, Mitchell hired a prominent Las Vegas law firm, McDonald Carano, documents show.

In February, he sent the county a $7,461 bill for work the attorneys completed through Jan. 31, 2018.

“I’m guessing he retained the attorney because of the (Review-Journal) public records request …,” Wells wrote in a March 13 email to a staff member about the bill. “But I suspect the answer he got from this lawyer was the same as what he got from the civil DA.”

Deputy District Attorney Robert Gower advised Mitchell and the other constables to provide the records of their township bank accounts.

Wells said the county declined to pay for Mitchell’s private counsel because Mitchell did not use the DA’s office or hire county pre-approved private attorneys who work at a discounted rate.

“He didn’t follow either of those processes,” Wells said “He’ll end up paying it.”

McDonald Carano and Gower didn’t respond to a request for comment.

$700,000 owed

A county official also expressed concerns that Mitchell might take funds out of his Henderson township account on his way out of the office.

The county charges departments for their share of overhead like computers, human resources staff and other central functions, and Henderson constable’s office owes the county about $700,000 for those costs since 2015.

“I just calculated what Earl’s restitution to the County would be for the past few years of (general fund) subsidies (nearly $700K), which he has verbally expressed a desire to repay,” Damon Harris, a county financial analyst, wrote on March 21. “I’m wondering now if it’s in our best interest to simply take some of it before we have a Bonaventura situation on our hands. Thoughts?”

The county eliminated Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura’s office in 2015 after questions about his oversight of the office, and County Commissioner Steve Sisolak revealed at the time that the township accounts had been “drained.”

The Henderson constable’s office is scheduled to pay $150,000 in the 2018 fiscal year from office reserves and an additional $325,000 in 2019 fiscal year. The rest will be paid in 2020, Wells said.

Wells said he is not sure Harris was serious about his Bonaventura comment. He said Mitchell repaid a loan from the county after it increased oversight of the constable’s office, so he expects the county will receive its money.

Human resources violations

County emails show human resources officials are also investigating Mitchell’s office for unspecified personnel issues.

“Staff issues are also being investigated by HR — sadly it appears the office made a number of mistakes,” Wells wrote March 21.

The documents also show the state fined Mitchell’s office $1,000 in February.

“The constable’s office did not have a workers compensation policy and the office was assessed a fine for noncompliance,” wrote Teri Williams, spokeswoman for the state Department of Business and Industry in response to a Review-Journal inquiry. “They subsequently obtained a policy to come into compliance.”

Wells said he had not heard about the state fine until seeing the emails. He declined to comment on the human resource matter with Mitchell’s office, citing employee privacy concerns.

Emails regarding Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
THE LATEST