Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2015

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Call to eliminate Las Vegas constable renewed in light of office’s newest controversy

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Clark County commissioner, Chris Giunchigliani

Questions surrounding involvement of the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office in the Assemblyman Steven Brooks case — the latest in a series of controversies involving the constable — has county commissioners looking at abolishing the office.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she planned to introduce an agenda item to discuss what can be done with the constable’s office, which she said had been a source of “never-ending” problems for the commission for two years.

Since John Bonaventura was elected Las Vegas township constable in 2010, the office has been dogged by controversies including allegations of sexual harassment, the filming of a profanity-laced reality television show pilot and engaging in lawsuits against constable’s offices in other jurisdictions.

“He’s done many very bothersome things with the office that call it into question,” Giunchigliani said. “It causes us to step back and ask (if we are) duplicating services.”

The latest incident came Wednesday, when a member of the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office was at the Legislature in Carson City, allegedly providing protection to Brooks, who was arrested over the weekend.

Brooks, who is out on bail, is accused of threatening fellow Democrat and Speaker-elect Marilyn Kirkpatrick. Authorities said they found a loaded Smith & Wesson handgun and 41 rounds of ammunition in the vehicle Brooks was driving at the time of the arrest Saturday.

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John Bonaventura, shown in 2004 as a candidate for the Clark County Commission.

Giunchigliani said protection services are “absolutely not part of the (constable's) duties in any way, shape or form.”

The constable’s office has denied that it offered protection to Brooks, contradicting statements made by Brooks’ lawyer, members of the Legislative Police and, unwittingly, members of the constable’s staff.

In an accidental phone call made to a Sun reporter, members of the constable’s office were overheard discussing plans for “a cover story” about the trip to Carson City and referenced a conversation with Brooks.

“I just don’t know how to take some of the stuff (Bonaventura’s) coming up with anymore,” Commissioner Steve Sisolak said. “There’s a total lack of transparency when you have one person in the office saying one thing to one group and a different thing to another group.”

Sisolak said attempts to rein in the office weren’t working and it may be time to explore other options.

The primary job of a constable’s office is to enforce evictions and serve civil documents such as subpoenas, property liens, court summonses and wage garnishments. Constables officers carry guns and Tasers, but rarely take people to jail.

“I would definitely be supportive to investigate the constable office’s jurisdiction and what they should be doing, their function,” Sisolak said.

In Clark County, there are constable offices in 11 townships, including Las Vegas Township. The others are in Henderson, North Las Vegas, Mesquite, Boulder, Laughlin, Moapa Valley, Moapa, Goodsprings, Bunkerville and Searchlight.

Although any changes to the duties of the constable’s office would have to occur at the legislative level, Giunchigliani said she thought the county had the option to not have a constable’s office at all.

“We have authority to make a determination whether the office is needed any longer, and I want to discuss it with my colleagues,” she said.

If a constable’s office were eliminated, its roles could be split between Metro Police and private process servers, Giunchigliani said.

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