Las Vegas Sun

June 2, 2015

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City/County Q&A:

$2,000 request for surety bond could pit constable vs. county commission

Allegations of sexual and religious discrimination in the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office, coupled with retaliation complaints, may make their way front and center during Tuesday's meeting of the Clark County Commission because of one important, touchy issue.

You mean because discrimination and retaliation are no-nos?

Well, they are that. But more to the point, we’re talking about money.

One of the items coming before commissioners is a request by Constable John Bonaventura for the county to pay $2,000 to a Los Angeles-based insurance services agency, which put up a $100,000 surety bond Bonaventura needed to activate a preliminary injunction against the constables of Laughlin and Henderson.

What’s that injunction all about?

A year ago, Laughlin’s constable set up an office in Las Vegas. Constables typically work on commission, so having another office close by meant competition for the fees constables earn by serving court documents and evictions. Bonaventura sued, essentially saying constables should stay within their own jurisdictions. In July, a Clark County district judge granted a preliminary injunction that favored Bonaventura’s stance.

However, county documents say, to activate the injunction Bonaventura was required to post a $100,000 bond with the court. To get the bond from HUB International Insurance Services, he had to pay $2,000.

And now he wants the county to reimburse him? What’s wrong with that? After all, though the constable operates almost completely autonomously, he still needs permission from the county controller for expenditures, right?

That’s right. The problem is, he didn’t get permission for this $2,000 expense. So county staff denied his request to be reimbursed from his office enterprise fund.

So how does this relate to the sexual, religious and retaliation allegations?

Questions are beginning to be asked among county officials: If Bonaventura loses in court, and if a court orders monetary damages to be paid, is Clark County on the hook? Or is that something Bonaventura’s office, on its own, has to cover?

Because the constable operates in something of an oversight vacuum, no one is sure they are, or want to be, responsible for it legally, sources say. That’s part of the reason a state lawmaker, Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, says she will introduce legislation next year that attempts to put more controls on constable offices.

What do you think county commissioners want to do about the $2,000?

Commissioner Steve Sisolak, whom sources say is persona non grata in the Las Vegas Township Constable's Office because of his vocal criticisms of the office, said Bonaventura has two factors going against him in this case: County staff initially denied reimbursement; Bonaventura used an out-of-state bonding company.

“It’s going to be hard to go against staff,” Sisolak said. “And I have no idea why he went out of state. I hope he shows up and answers some questions.”

* * *

Downtown’s redevelopment is more than just hip taverns and eateries on East Fremont Street. On Wednesday, the City Council approved an agreement that one day might bring something to downtown Las Vegas that isn't anywhere else in the state.

What’s that?

A school for blind children. Nevada is one of a handful of states without a school that caters to visually impaired children. The City Council approved a memo of understanding with the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation that could lead to a school being housed in the city’s former Leisure Services office at 741 Veteran’s Memorial Drive, west of the Las Vegas Library on Las Vegas Boulevard North.

Doesn’t the Clark County School District have classes catering to the visually impaired?

It does. But Virginia Valentine, who sits on the foundation’s board and is president of the Nevada Resort Association, said the school would add to what the school district already does.

“We’d start with early childhood,” she said, adding that people “now have to go to other places for some services.”

Because of the challenges associated with teaching the visually impaired, she added, a school dedicated to that mission typically employs lower teacher-to-student ratios because the children require more attention.

So when does it open?

Just hold on. Valentine said the deal was far from done. The memorandum of understanding is a first step that gives the foundation the opportunity to look more closely at the property and the feasibility of creating the school.

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