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Proposal could abolish Las Vegas constable’s office

Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura’s future rests with the Clark County Commission.

Commissioners are expected to decide Tuesday on a proposal that would abolish the constable’s office, effective when his term ends in 2015.

There’s no telling how that decision will turn out for Bonaventura, who leads a team of 42 deputies handling tasks such as evictions and serving legal paper­work. Only one commissioner has indicated a position on the proposal.

The office has drawn plenty of attention since Bonaventura’s 2010 election to a first term.

It has been plagued by a variety of high-profile episodes that include a criticized venture into reality television, hiring deputies with questionable backgrounds, and a deputy missing a body in a residence when on a call.

Bonaventura also has clashed with county officials over payments to attorneys hired for a lawsuit he filed against other constable’s offices without the county’s support.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is pushing for abolishing the office. She says it’s crucial the public is well-served with better oversight, improved training and transparent hiring practices in the office.

The proposal doesn’t outline who would take over the constable’s duties if the office is abolished, and how it would be done.

But it could include adding work and personnel to the Metropolitan Police Department and possibly contracting out some tasks.

If commissioners were to move forward with abolishing the office, they would need to put a plan together with input from the sheriff.

Late last week Bonaventura went to court, asking a Clark County District Judge for a temporary restraining order to prevent Tuesday’s commission vote. That request, based on arguments that abolishing his office would violate the state constitution, has been set for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. today before Clark County District Court Judge Rob Bare.

Bonaventura is also preparing to make his case to the commission, which is to show that the office is necessary.

To that end, he’s compiling statistics and charts about his office’s workload and revenues. In 2012, for example, deputies served civil paperwork on 68,933 occasions, according to his statistics.

“They have to determine the office is no longer necessary and we’re going to show the commissioners that the office is necessary,” he said. “That’s our case for Tuesday, that the office is necessary.”’

Asked about the variety of controversies his office has faced, Bonaventura said: “A lot of that stuff is a lot of hype.”

He’s also irked about the need to spend time defending his office.

“It’s a waste of taxpayer money to put this thing on the agenda and waste everybody’s time,” he said.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said he’s receptive to the proposal, but also wants to see if the Nevada Legislature ends up taking actions that impact constable’s offices.

He also said he’s concerned about the formerly obscure office gaining a high profile from various episodes. “It’s definitely worthy of a discussion,” he said of the proposal.

Commissioner Larry Brown said he still needs to hear more information about how costs and resources would align if the county had to take on the constable’s responsibilities.

Commissioner Susan Brager said getting feedback from the sheriff about the change is crucial before making a decision.

“There’s a lot to look at still,” she said.

Commissioner Mary Beth Scow said she’s looking forward to the discussion and believes the county has to do something to address the situation with the constable’s office. But she still has questions, including the implications of abolishing one constable’s office but not other constable’s offices in the county.

Clark County has 11 constable’s offices.

Commissioner Tom Collins said he supports changes to make the constable’s office’s work be more effective and efficient. The sheriff could do many of those duties, and work also could be farmed out to private vendors, he said.

He added: “The voters made a mistake, I think, and we’ve got two more years to suffer.”

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin
@reviewjournal. com or 702-455-4519.

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