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North Las Vegas, Henderson constable offices could be eliminated

Updated April 6, 2018 - 4:25 pm

Clark County may shut down the last two elected Las Vegas-area constable offices after a Review-Journal investigation last month revealed questionable spending by Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani asked Clark County staff to speak with the Metropolitan Police Department about absorbing the Henderson and North Las Vegas constable offices. The move would mirror a similar consolidation of the Las Vegas constable’s office into Metro about three years ago after other controversies involving constables.

Giunchigliani also asked for a discussion of the issue at the next Clark County Commission meeting.

“There’s still an ongoing concern about how the money is collected and where the money is going,” Giunchigliani said.

North Las Vegas Constable Robert Eliason is suing the county after commissioners tried to force him out of office. After 18 months state law requires constables to pass the Peace Officer Training and Standards certification. But Eliason held the position for four years and was not able to pass the tests.

Giunchigliani said the Review-Journal story, which examined Mitchell’s spending over the past two years, sparked her decision to seek a discussion about eliminating the remaining urban constables offices.

“In Henderson, it’s mostly the story you did that brought to light questions about the funds and what is done with that money,” she said.

Questionable spending

Mitchell dropped out of his re-election bid on March 21, hours before the Review-Journal posted a story showing he wrote himself $70,000 in checks from county funds deposited into his Henderson constable account. Mitchell also took out $1,700 from ATMs in casinos and video poker bars and used county money for trips to towns where his children live.

The Nevada attorney general’s office has indicated that it will start a criminal investigation of Mitchell if the Clark County district attorney does not pursue the case, records show.

Joe Pitts, a Democrat running for Henderson constable, approved of eliminating the office.

“The county pays a lot of the freight, the lease for office and staff, so they might as well take it over and give it over to Metro,” Pitts said. “It puts me out of work, but that’s OK if the people get a better product.”

Kenny Taylor, the Republican candidate for Henderson constable, said eliminating the office would increase costs by having deputies with pension and other benefits do the work now done by independent contractors.

“I don’t think it’s right to abolish the office for a few bad apples,” he said. “A lot of this could be prevented if the county had better oversight.”

Constable controversy

In 2014, Clark County commissioners cracked down on the Henderson and North Las Vegas constables offices after questions arose about how much constables were paying themselves from the fees they collect for serving legal documents. The elected constables collected their own fees and spent the money with little oversight or transparency.

Commissioners voted to set salaries for Henderson and North Las Vegas at $103,000 a year and to collect all of their fees, paying salaries and giving constables what they needed to run the offices.

Eight other constables in Clark County, stretching from Mesquite to Laughlin, continue to collect their own fees and run their offices without significant county money or oversight.

The Review-Journal story sparked an audit of Mitchell’s funds to determine if any money was improperly spent, something the county failed to do nearly four years after taking control of the office’s purse strings.

The auditor’s office also did not audit the North Las Vegas constable’s office, which is run by Eliason. The county tried to vacate the office after Eliason could not pass state-required police certification, but the District Court blocked his removal. The case is in federal court.

Mitchell has declined to answer questions about his spending. Eliason did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

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

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