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Commissioners have options for handling constable situation

Google “process servers Las Vegas” and the Las Vegas Constable’s office comes up, as do another half dozen companies.

That leads me to join in the chorus of “Why do we need a constable’s office?”

It seems like there are plenty of private companies ready to do the job, with one exception. They don’t want to be doing evictions.

If the Clark County Commission decides Tuesday to eliminate the elected position now held by Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura — which based on his embarrassing management record seems probable — part of the duties could be turned over to Sheriff Doug Gillespie’s office. The sheriff’s office already has a civil service section for serving legal documents.

Gillespie told me previously, he can get the job done if the county provides additional resources. But he’s also open to privatizing the process-serving side while retaining the eviction responsibilities, which can involve violence.

David Howard, owner of Unity One, Inc., would be delighted to do more process serving. Howard said 45 percent of his private investigation business involves process serving, and they don’t even advertise that on the website. He has seven employees who serve legal papers. “We do it faster and better than the constable’s office.”

And with more courtesy, he claimed.

From tapes showing Bonaventura and his team at work, Howard might be right.

In this litigious community, there’s plenty of work serving papers, said Phil Gervasi, former head of the school district’s police union and now a consultant for Unity One.

The downside of privatization? Under former Constable Robert “Bobby G” Gronauer, the office made money for the county. If the bulk of the work is privatized, it won’t be an income generator for Clark County.

Tuesday’s County Commission meeting is likely to be a barn burner as Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani pushes her idea to abolish Bonaventura’s elected position when his term ends in less than two years.

Depending on whether the 10 a.m. hearing reviews all the problems the constable has had or just focuses solely on whether another system would work better, it has the potential to be drawn out and dramatic.

Will Giunchigliani decide to quiz Bonaventura about his accusation that she set up his DUI arrest? Will he be challenged for lying to the arresting officer and saying he hadn’t had a drink all day when he had, even if he’s not being charged with driving drunk?

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick introduced Assembly Bill 223 to revise laws regarding constables.

Her bill, introduced March 8, limits constables from working outside their jurisdiction. Bonaventura said that was one reason why his office is losing money. Other constables in the county were poaching on his turf. He went to court to get that stopped.

AB223 requires that a deputy constable in Clark County must be a Category II peace officer when hired. Under existing law, Bonaventura hired deputies, who then had a year to become certified. This would have blocked Bonaventura from hiring his attorney as a deputy to circumvent the county’s refusal to pay his legal bills.

The bill clarified that clerical and operational staff are not peace officers and can’t carry weapons as part of their office jobs, even if they have concealed weapons permits.

Do you eliminate an elected position because it seems to attract mostly losers ?

Would it be better to privatize it? Or would it be better to make it an appointed position, which is yet another option?

Kirkpatrick’s bill doesn’t make constables an appointed position. But bills can change in the time it takes for a constable to whip out a Taser.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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