EDITORIAL: Fool me twice

The longer Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura remains on the job, the more he justifies the Clark County Commission’s decision to abolish his office — and the more he reminds voters to cast an informed ballot.

Bonaventura, running for a seat on the County Commission as revenge for being denied the ability to seek re-election to his current post, has rightly been sued over his latest outrageous practice: shaking down people with out-of-state license plates.

Nicole McMillen exposed the obviously unconstitutional practice in a federal lawsuit filed Monday. According to the complaint, Bryan Cornell, the head of the constable’s special enforcement unit, was trolling the Turnberry Towers parking garage in March for vehicles with out-of-state plates when he spotted Ms. McMillen’s car, which was registered in Utah. He then slipped a card in her window that told her to contact him about a complaint and possible criminal charge. That led to an attempted interrogation cut off by Ms. McMillen’s lawyer.

As reported Wednesday by the Review-Journal’s Jeff German, a letter from the constable’s office soon followed, demanding that Ms. McMillen pay $100 to avoid criminal charges and a $1,000 fine. (Drivers must turn in out-of-state plates within 30 days of becoming a Nevada resident or face a misdemeanor charge.)

“You can’t just pay peace officers for writing a citation,” Las Vegas lawyer Jeffrey Barr told Mr. German. “The case has to first be adjudicated by a judge to determine your guilt or innocence.” But no citation had even been filed in Justice Court. Ms. McMillen was being ordered to pay to avoid a citation. That’s blackmail under the color of law — regardless of how you might feel about people who are slow to change their license plates. The court must halt these money grabs at once.

Not surprisingly, Bonaventura’s office defends the practice, citing a state law that allows the constable to collect $100 as “compensation” for its work. What a reach. The constable’s office is supposed to be sustained by fees for serving court papers and eviction notices — documents actually filed with a court — but Bonaventura has lost a great deal of business to neighboring constables because of other buffoonery, including sketchy hires and generally being a clown with a badge.

He has proved himself unfit for any office, much less one that makes him and anyone of his choosing a certified peace officer. Bonaventura fooled voters once, in 2010, by running for a down-ticket position and having a familiar name — his cousin is Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure. Now Bonaventura is trying to fool voters again — with help from his toadies. Early voting for the June 10 primary election starts Saturday. Bonaventura is challenging Commissioner Mary Beth Scow in the District G Democratic primary. Former Assemblyman Lou Toomin, who serves as spokesman for the constable’s office, is challenging Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani in the District E Democratic primary. And Robert Pool, an attorney deputized by Bonaventura to cover office legal bills the county refused to pay, is challenging Department 28 District Judge Ron Israel, who sanctioned Pool to the tune of $11,000.

Pay attention, voters. Don’t make the same mistake twice. When voting in the primary, make sure Bonaventura stays on track for a January retirement from office. And make sure he takes his friends with him.

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