weather icon Clear

Henderson constable’s spending ignites calls for closer scrutiny

Updated March 22, 2018 - 8:25 pm

Law enforcement authorities should look into Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell’s questionable spending of county money revealed in a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation, local attorneys said Thursday.

After holding the office since 1995, Mitchell abruptly dropped his re-election bid Wednesday, hours before the Review-Journal published a story online showing he wrote himself $72,000 in checks from county accounts and withdrew about $9,000 at banks and ATMs, including some at bars and casinos. He spent thousands more on meals and trips to towns where his adult children live.

In response to the article, Clark County started an audit of Mitchell’s spending.

Craig Mueller, a Republican candidate for attorney general and former deputy district attorney, said Mitchell’s spending merits more than an internal county review.

“If I were the (attorney general), I would send a couple of investigators to poke around and see what it is,” he said.

A former U.S. attorney, Paul Padda, said federal prosecutors might also want to look into the spending.

“These allegations against the constable are deeply troubling for both the taxpayers and the deputies he was supposed to compensate,” he said. “Anytime there is an allegation of misuse of public funds, it’s going to attract the attention of law enforcement, whether it be Metro or the FBI.”

The U.S. attorney’s office usually prosecutes cases involving high-dollar misuse of public money, said Chris Rasmussen, a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney. He said the recent charges against former Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow show federal prosecutors take on cases against government officials no matter the amounts.

Mitchell declined an interview request for Wednesday’s story but said he reimbursed the county for any personal expenses, which he redacted from the bank statements. Records show about $49,000 in unspecified deposits into the Henderson Township Holding Accounts over the past two years, but over the same time Mitchell wrote himself $72,000 in checks from the accounts for unknown reasons.

Las Vegas attorney Craig Drummond, a former U.S. Army judge advocate general, questioned the county’s oversight of the money provided to Mitchell’s office.

“Public funds should be under the highest scrutiny, and whoever is responsible for following those funds and using the funds correctly should have acted,” he said. “You aren’t allowed to intermingle personal funds and county money, and when you do that it’s at your own peril.”

Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said the county may take unspecified measures depending on what the audit shows, but he did not say when auditors would complete their review.

“Obviously, County payments for expenses of the constable’s office should only be used for appropriate expenses,” Kulin wrote in an email. “If the audit shows this is not the case, we will take appropriate action.”

U.S. attorney spokeswoman Trisha Young said the office does not “confirm or deny investigations.”

Mitchell and the Nevada attorney general’s office did not respond Thursday to requests for comment.

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.