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Mesquite constable was investigated for misconduct

As Mesquite Constable Duane Thurston campaigned for a sixth term, it was unclear if his office would remain intact in time for the election.

The Clark County Commission in April was discussing the beleaguered constable offices in Henderson and North Las Vegas when Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick made an unexpected suggestion: use their authority to abolish the Mesquite constable’s office.

“There’s a variety of issues that are concerning,” she said during the April 17 meeting. “They’re an outlying community. I think it can be better handled by the police department that is out there.”

This week, Kirkpatrick said her comments had nothing to do with allegations of misconduct against Thurston, but documents obtained by the Review-Journal show the constable was under investigation when Kirkpatrick floated the idea.

It was the second investigation into Thurston in 14 months, and it was ongoing when he won the Republican primary for his office last month. He’s now running uncontested in the general election.

Mesquite Police Department reports released this week show that at least four people have accused the constable of acting inappropriately toward them or others. None of the accusations have resulted in criminal charges.

Police were told that Thurston asked to see one woman naked, repeatedly showed up unannounced at another woman’s home late at night and, in two separate instances, offered to stop evictions he was carrying out if the women who faced losing their homes would go on dates with him. A female inmate at Mesquite’s jail also alleged that Thurston rented her a hotel room where they engaged in a sex act.

The identities of the alleged victims and witnesses are redacted from the reports.

Thurston, a 54-year-old married man, has served as Mesquite’s elected constable since 1994. On Tuesday he denied the allegations made against him, and said he was not aware he had been under police investigation.

“It’s a surprise to me that you got these (police reports) before I was even notified,” he told the Review-Journal.

Allegations and investigations

Mesquite police first investigated Thurston in May 2017, when the inmate made the claims about the hotel room sex act. The incident was first reported as a sexual assault, but the inmate later told a detective the encounter was consensual.

The woman said Thurston rented the room and they engaged in a sex act. Thurston said the woman was homeless and her husband, who lived in Florida, paid for the room. Thurston said he escorted the woman to the room, but never entered it, and police closed the case.

Police again looked into Thurston’s action in November after a therapist told police a client said he had harassed people while performing his duties as constable. That led to three more interviews and a string of other accusations but no charges.

“No probable cause was identified that any specific crimes were committed,” department spokesman Sgt. Quinn Averett wrote in an email.

Police sent their reports to the District Attorney’s Office and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office for review. On June 13, Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Kochevar wrote in an email to a police detective that “criminal charges are not viable at this time.”

Frederick Niles, a compliance investigator with the Attorney General’s office, told Mesquite police that matters of sexual harassment could be handled by the Clark County Commission, the Department of Justice and other agencies.

Commissioner Kirkpatrick on Tuesday said that when she heard of the complaints made against Thurston she passed them along to Assistant County Manager Jeff Wells to start an internal investigation.

A redacted email sent from Office of Diversity employee Letty Bonilla to Wells and Human Resources Director Sandy Jeantete on April 23 suggests that the county interviewed at least one employee at the constable’s office who “did not express any concerns.” Thurston confirmed that Office of Diversity investigators came to his office.

The results of the internal investigation are unknown because county officials will not acknowledge the existence of such investigations.

Constable controversies

Thurston is only the latest Southern Nevada constable to come under scrutiny.

Last month, police raided the home and office of Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Search warrants show Mitchell could face charges of theft, embezzlement, unlawful use of public funds and misconduct of a public officer. The investigation follows a Review-Journal report that Mitchell wrote himself more than $70,000 in checks over the past two years from an account containing money for his deputies’ wages.

North Las Vegas Constable Robert Eliason sued the Clark County Commission in July 2017 after commissioners discussed whether to declare his office vacant and appoint a replacement because Eliason never met a requirement in state law to become a certified law enforcement officer. Eliason, a Democrat, is running for re-election.

In February 2017, a grand jury indicted former Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura on felony charges of theft, misconduct of a public officer and wiretapping. He was accused of secretly recording phone calls and increasing his spokesman’s salary to help pay off a house.

Laughlin Constable Jordan Ross, who is chairman of the Southern Nevada Rural Constable’s Alliance, said questionable actions by constables diminishes public trust in the office.

“I have constantly reminded both the members of our organization as well as my own deputies that we are under constant public scrutiny and for the public to have confidence in the constable system, we must strive for and adhere to a higher standard of behavior,” Ross said.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story had the incorrect name for Laughlin Constable Jordan Ross. The story has also been updated to clarify who paid for the woman’s hotel room.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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