August 3, 2020 - 9:00 pm
Enforcing the law doesn’t mean you may ignore the statutes you don’t like. Robert Eliason, the ineligible North Las Vegas constable, is learning that the hard way.
Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Eliason is ineligible to hold his office. Nevada law requires constables to earn a Peace Officer Standards and Training certification. Current constables most do so within 18 months after taking office. Mr. Eliason took office in January 2015. Five years later, he still hasn’t done it.
The 58-year-old Mr. Eliason has claimed that he can’t meet the situp requirements because of a neurological condition. There’s no joy in telling someone a physical limitation means he can’t meet necessary standards. That’s the nature, however, of many professions, including police work. State law requires peace officers to meet standards in several categories, including running, jumping, agility, pushups and situps.
There’s a good reason for those requirements. Police work at times requires pursuing someone or physically restraining people. The constable’s office, which includes deputies, is responsible for serving civil papers, enforcing evictions and dealing with complaints about abandoned vehicles. It only makes sense to ensure those officers meet minimum police standards.
What doesn’t make sense is that Mr. Eliason remained in office for so long — racking up retirement credits — despite being ineligible for the position. He should have had the integrity to leave office after failing to earn his POST certificate by the deadline. Instead, it fell to the Clark County Commission to name a replacement. The commission, instead, opted to dither on the issue, essentially ignoring the law. Mr. Eliason later tried to get friendly lawmakers to change the statute retroactively. He eventually sued and received a preliminary injunction, keeping him in office. Legal actions finally ended up at the Nevada Supreme Court.
The state high court made the obvious decision, given the clear language of the law. The justices ruled that Mr. Eliason forfeited his office by failing to meet state requirements. Yes, law enforcement officers must follow the law.
It’s unclear if Mr. Eliason plans to continue his inexplicable intransigence. His spokeswoman, Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, told the Review-Journal he had no comment “due to other pending litigation.”
Last session, the Legislature passed a law to prevent this needless drama from reoccurring. It required that, going forward. constable candidates for North Las Vegas and Henderson must have POST certification before filing to run. There shouldn’t be a lack of interest. Mr. Eliason raked in $148,000 last year in total compensation, according to TransparentNevada.com. At issue for the commission, however, is whether Southern Nevada actually needs elected constables in the first place.