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Counting down constable’s term

The clownish antics of Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura — a man eminently unqualified to be in armed law enforcement, elected in a down-ticket race two years ago only because his name is similar to that of a well-known local judge — have gone past the merely embarrassing. Now this is getting dangerous.

Forget the harassment allegations, the jurisdictional squabbles. Forget the handing out of badges to unqualified persons in lieu of payment for services the county refused to cover. Forget that awful reality TV show and the fact that one deputy is being investigated for shooting a dog.

Bonaventura was arrested Tuesday by the Nevada Highway Patrol on suspicion of speeding and drunken driving after being pulled over in his official agency vehicle.

Not every traffic stop results in a conviction, of course. An innocent driver could turn out to be sleepy or have health problems. But Bonaventura’s response — charging that his arrest is part of a political conspiracy to get rid of him — merely raises more alarms. Especially when he told a Review-Journal reporter that he had “one or two” drinks at the Stratosphere before returning to his office.

“My opinion of it is that I was set up. It was a setup,” he said after his Wednesday release from jail.

It’s hard to make Bonaventura look worse, but a lawsuit filed Friday does. It alleges he had his friend’s estranged wife unlawfully arrested and jailed last fall over a verbal dispute, using his authority to settle a personal score.

Clark County commissioners have clearly had enough. They are preparing to introduce an ordinance that would do away with the Las Vegas Township Constable entirely, when Bonaventura’s term is up, on Jan. 4, 2015. A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for March 19.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is spearheading the effort to do away with the office, and she’s made no secret that her plan is driven by the actions of Bonaventura, elected in 2010. The goal would be to abolish the office and its roughly 25 deputies and turn over some, if not all, of the constable’s duties to the Metropolitan Police Department.

Whether the answer is to get rid of the office — which created few such problems under the stewardship of Bonaventura’s predecessor, retired Las Vegas police Sgt. Bobby Gronauer — or simply convert it to an appointed position, hired by the County Commission, is a decision that will be made by commissioners and, ultimately, the state Legislature.

Generally, the more matters in which taxpayers have a vote, the better. But in this case, it may not be enough simply to say, “Elect someone better.”

Anyone given authority to wear a uniform and carry a badge and gun on public business should meet certain minimum standards of training, character and discipline. But Bonaventura has plainly demonstrated that the constable answers to no one. Voters now have no way to impose that discipline or those requirements, even if they regret casting an ill-informed vote two Novembers ago. Adult supervision must be imposed on this gang of Keystone Cops, and soon.

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