Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 | 5:03 p.m.
For now, Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura will have to pay his own legal bills without help from Clark County.
With little emotion Tuesday, county commissioners unanimously denied Bonaventura’s request for a $2,000 reimbursement to pay a bill from a Los Angeles-based insurance agency. The company had put up a $100,000 surety bond the constable had needed to activate a preliminary injunction against the constables of Laughlin and Henderson.
The problem, commissioners said, is that Bonaventura went ahead with the $2,000 agreement without prior commission approval. County attorneys told commissioners Bonaventura initiated the legal action against Henderson and Laughlin constables even though the county had been seeking an agreement without legal action.
Bonaventura’s suit stems, in part, from the fact that a year ago Laughlin’s constable set up an office in Las Vegas. Constable deputies work on commission, so having another office close by meant competition for the fees earned by serving court documents and eviction notices. Bonaventura’s suit said constables should keep within their own jurisdictions.
In July, a Clark County district judge granted a preliminary injunction that favored Bonaventura’s stance.
Attorneys clarified that even though the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office is funded entirely from the fees they collect, they are under the county’s jurisdiction. That mean if Bonaventura anticipates a new expense, he needs the county controller’s permission beforehand.
Commissioner Mary Beth Scow worried about the precedent Bonaventura, an elected official, set by suing other elected officials “without our knowledge in the first place.”
Commissioner Steve Sisolak, noting the “plethora” of private attorneys Bonaventura brought to address commissioners — there were two, Matt Callister and Spencer Judd — lamented that those two attorneys will now have to be paid.
If the constable ultimately loses the jurisdiction case, Commissioner Larry Brown added, “We’re paying for everybody’s attorney.”
The Clark County district attorney is the constable’s official legal representative. But before the district attorney could work out an agreement with other constables, Mary-Anne Miller, county counsel, initiated Bonaventura's lawsuit.
During public comment, Michael Yepko, a former law enforcement officer who now is a licensed private investigator and who unsuccessfully ran for Bonaventura’s seat in 2010, told commissioners the Constable’s Office had lacked a system of checks and balances, and he encouraged the county to investigate “where the money is going.”