The choices for North Las Vegas constable’s office are down to an incumbent violating Nevada law and a challenger who is under police investigation.
Constable Robert Eliason, 56, has served his entire first term without becoming a certified law enforcement officer. He’s suing Clark County and hopes to invalidate the requirement, which is state law.
Challenger Jimmy Vega, 51, holds the certification Eliason lacks, but two homes connected to Vega were raided last week by Las Vegas police.
Eliason, a Democrat and former North Las Vegas city councilman, says he has proven himself to be a worthy administrator of the office.
“I worked within my budget. Not only was I within my budget, I’ve returned money back to the county each and every year,” he said. “I don’t know how you can beat that.”
Vega, a Republican, said his experience as a chief petty officer in the Navy Reserve and as a deputy constable in Laughlin make him better suited for the job.
“I want to restore a good name to the office and title of constable,” Vega said. “And I know I can do that by implementing the right (standard operating procedures), training and the right leadership.”
The constable office’s duties include carrying out evictions, serving civil court papers and processing abandoned vehicle complaints.
Vega said Eliason is putting himself and the public in danger by not becoming a certified law enforcement officer. Eliason said he has minimized the chance of anything going wrong because he serves court paperwork, but no longer carries a gun and has not performed an eviction in the past year.
The constable has said he cannot become certified because of a neurological condition that prevents him from completing a situps test. His lawsuit asserts the state requirement infringes on the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and violates Nevada’s constitution because it only applies to constables of North Las Vegas and Henderson.
In a political mailer, Eliason claimed his office has returned over $1.2 million profit back to the county after paying for its operations.
But county-provided numbers show that Eliason had only returned about $570,000 to his office’s enterprise fund as of July. Those expenses didn’t include the cost of things like office supplies and salaries for office staff, which totaled to about another $668,000 during Eliason’s tenure, according to the county.
Vega has a history of financial troubles, records show.
From 2004 to 2010 the Internal Revenue Service placed a series of federal liens on Vega stating he owed about $96,500 in unpaid income taxes and another $11,000 for unpaid payroll taxes.
Vega said he incurred the liens when he self-managed the payroll at his Allstate Insurance franchise and did not save enough money for taxes. He said he has paid more than $50,000 to the IRS, and is on a payment plan for the rest of the owed money.
Vega still owns and operates the insurance company and has hired a payroll professional.
“I was young,” he said. “I learned from mistakes that I made in business as a businessman.”
In 2014 Vega paid a $50,000 settlement to a man who accused Vega of scamming him while they were both working at a 9/11-related charity.
The constable race took a surprising turn last week, when Metropolitan Police Department officers raided a North Las Vegas home where Vega rents a room. His fiancee’s home in Las Vegas also was searched.
Police sought for evidence that would show where the candidate lives. Last month, the Nevada Secretary of State’s office investigated and dismissed a complaint that Vega did not live in North Las Vegas for at least 30 days before he filed for candidacy.
Vega maintains that he has rented a room at a friend’s home in the city since December, and he says that voters shouldn’t lose sight of Eliason’s shortcomings.
“I am qualified, 100 percent qualified for the job, to where my opponent is not,” Vega said. “He failed the police academy, he sued Clark County and he is continuing to push this lawsuit further and further and I think it’s wrong.”
But Eliason says his deep roots in North Las Vegas show he is the candidate more invested in the area’s residents.
“I have resided in this community for 56 years,” he said. “I didn’t move here just to run.”
Constable Robert Eliason has not received any campaign contributions to his re-election bid, finance reports show.
The incumbent has spent almost $41,000 this year, money he said comes from a war chest he built up throughout his three North Las Vegas City Council campaigns to pay for his constable races.
Jimmy Vega’s campaign has raised nearly $66,700 and spent about $46,000 as of Oct. 12.
North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, through a PAC and his own campaign, has contributed $10,000 to Vega.
Lee, who has endorsed Vega, said last year that he would be OK with Clark County officials eliminating the constable’s office and giving its duties to the Metropolitan Police Department’s civil division.
Records show North Las Vegas Councilman Richard Cherchio has donated $300 to Vega’s campaign, and the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association gave $500.
Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal