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New law to affect constable candidates in Henderson, North Las Vegas

A new state law will prevent embattled North Las Vegas Constable Robert Eliason from running for another term in office unless he becomes a certified police officer.

After Senate Bill 462 takes effect in October, constable candidates in North Las Vegas and Henderson will need to obtain a Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification before filing to run. The races will also now be nonpartisan.

“We’ve already gone down this road,” Nevada POST executive director Michael Sherlock said. “Sheriffs in this state are under a similar statute. In our higher population counties, they have to be certified to run.”

SB462 will also require constables in Boulder City and Mesquite to become POST certified within a year of taking office. Constables in rural townships with smaller populations will not need certification.

Constables and their deputies are responsible for carrying out evictions, serving civil court papers and processing abandoned vehicle complaints, among other duties.

Eliason came under scrutiny for serving his entire first term, and part of his second, without becoming certified. Under the current law, constables in North Las Vegas and Henderson must become certified within a year after taking office or forfeit their position.

Eliason sued the Clark County Commission in July 2017 after board members discussed whether to declare his office vacant and appoint a new constable. His lawsuit claims a neurological condition prevents him from completing a sit-up test that is part of the certification process, and then-District Court Judge Elissa Cadish issued a preliminary injunction to ensure the constable stayed in office until his case was resolved.

Eliason said Friday he stands by his lawsuit’s assertion that the certification requirement violates federal disability law and also Nevada’s Constitution because it does not apply to constable’s offices in less-populated areas. But he also said he would try to become certified if that stands in the way of him running again during the 2022 election.

“I will attempt to do (the certification test) again, if given the opportunity,” he said.

The question of whether Eliason can remain in office until then was referred to the Nevada Supreme Court in March. Justices have been asked to rule whether Eliason can be removed only through an action brought by the state’s attorney general, at the governor’s direction. Cadish, who is now a justice on the court, has been disqualified from ruling on the case.

“The real question is what is the power of a county in relation of a duly elected constable?” said Jeffrey Barr, Eliason’s attorney. “It’s perfectly appropriate for the Nevada Supreme Court to weigh in on state law questions of such important public policy.”

SB462 will also require county commissioners to approve pay rates for deputy constables in North Las Vegas and Henderson.

Those same offices will also need to pay any fees they collect to the county treasurer’s office once a week.

The enhanced oversight follows a Review-Journal investigation that found then-Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell had allegedly inflated his deputies’ pay and expenses and pocketed the difference. A Clark County grand jury indicted Mitchell on five felony counts of theft and public misconduct in December.

Laughlin Constable Jordan Ross, who is also chairman of the Southern Nevada Rural Constable’s Alliance, said he believes the changes were a response to Mitchell’s alleged misuse of funds.

“The longer (the funds) sit unaccounted for, the longer there is for potential misallocation,” Ross said.

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

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