Esmeralda County Sheriff Nicholas “Nick” Dondero, who is less than a year into his four-year term, should be ousted from office because a domestic battery conviction disqualifies him from being a peace officer, according to the Nevada attorney general’s office.
“Dondero cannot lawfully remain in his position as county sheriff” but despite being told he must step aside by state officials and the county district attorney “he has refused to voluntarily leave his position,” the office stated in a court filing.
By state law, the sheriff of a Nevada county with fewer than 30,000 residents has to forfeit the job within one year of taking office if he or she fails to earn certification as a class I, II or III level peace officer, according to state Solicitor General Kiel Ireland.
Dondero, because of his 2007 conviction for battery domestic violence, is barred by state law from certification as a peace officer of any class and since he has to be a peace officer to remain as sheriff, he must leave office, Ireland stated in an Oct. 26 civil lawsuit filed in District Court in Esmeralda County.
Dondero, 49, could not be reached for comment at the sheriff’s department in Goldfield.
The sheriff was elected in the Nov. 8, 2022, general election, getting 287 votes to his opponent Matthew Kirkland’s 150 votes in Esmeralda County, a sparsely populated rural county located about 200 miles northwest of Las Vegas between Nye County and the California border.
In the June 2007 battery domestic violence case, Dondero pleaded no contest to the charge. He was fined $1,000 plus other fees and ordered to serve two days of house arrest, complete 48 hours community service and undergo 1.5 hours a week of counseling for six months, according to court documents.
Ireland, on behalf of state Attorney General Aaron Ford, filed a request for what’s called a writ of quo warranto. A judge may issue such a writ as a civil action “against a person who unlawfully holds a public office” and so must forfeit their position, he stated in the filing.
Using the writ is recognized in Article 6 of the Nevada Constitution and further described in Nevada Revised Statutes 35.010, Ireland stated.
After a speedy trial, a judge can rule in favor of the writ and order the official to leave office, according to the filing.
Ireland included in his filing a letter addressed to Dondero from the Nevada Commission of Peace Officer Standards and Training that states the body had determined Dondero was disqualified from serving as a peace officer.
The commission informed the sheriff that state Senate Bill 225 passed into law in 2023 says a person convicted of a domestic violence offense cannot be certified as an officer “whether or not the offense had been expunged or sealed” and that the commission would tell the Esmeralda County Commission and district attorney’s office about the “pending forfeiture and resulting vacancy” of Dondero’s position.
Another Ireland exhibit was a letter to the attorney general’s office from Esmeralda District Attorney Robert Glennen III stating that Dondero would “automatically forfeit” his position as of Jan. 2 when Glennen intended to file a complaint, but if the state wanted to do it now, it would have to seek the writ of quo warranto.