John Bonaventura, Las Vegas Constable
by IAN MYLCHREEST -- Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura has all but given up on persuading the legislature and the Clark County Commission to not abolish his office. Instead, he will take the fight to court.
While not conceding that he has done anything wrong, he spells out his strategy in an interview with Nevada Public Radio: “We’ve got litigation against the county, we’ve got constitutional violations all over the place. It’s a bad thing for the citizens what they’re trying to do here to the citizens of Las Vegas is just absolutely ridiculous.”
If his office is abolished, he says, he’ll run for the county commission.
He claims performance times have improved and evictions are now carried out within one day. “Now we have pretty much the most excellent service in the whole nation,” he adds.
Elected in 2010, largely because of name recognition from his uncle who had a long career on the bench, Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura has rarely been out of the news since he was elected. And mostly, it’s not been good.
Questions were first raised about Bonaventura's suitability because he was not qualified as a peace officer - officials who have the powers of police. State law automatically confers that status on the constable once he's elected. Bonaventura argued that his previous certification as a in Georgia was sufficient.
In late 2011, a reality video surfaced showing Bonaventura’s deputies stopping motorists, flashing guns and using profanity in the course of their daily operations. That immediately angered Clark County Commissioners who ordered a report on the constable’s office.
Bonaventura denied knowledge of the video even though he had posted it to his personal Web site. He was angry that Commissioner Steve Sisolak had asked for the report on his office. That report documented financial mismanagement in the constable’s office, although Bonaventura argued that the county took $2 million from the office to fund other expenses.
Former deputy constable Kristy Henderson filed complaints in August 2011 alleging Bonaventura harassed female employees. Henderson, the office’s only female deputy, was fired in what she claims was retaliation for her complaints. Bonaventura told Nevada Public Radio Hendesron was a holdover from the previous administration and his office has not had to pay any damages on the pending complaint.
When questions were raised about the constable’s hiring process and the way in which deputies were qualifying as peace officers, Bonaventura created his own training academy. The constable’s office paid for his deputies to be trained but the academy’s chief executive, Jason Watkins, who also works in the constable’s office, insisted he and other insiders were not profiting from the academy.
The constable locked horns with other Clark County constables who were offering to serve documents in Las Vegas. Bonaventura sued to stop them and the Nevada Supreme Court issued an injunction preventing the cross-border raids pending a final decision. But that ran up legal bills that Clark County refused to pay.
Bonaventura outmaneuvered the commissioners, though, by simply deputizing his attorneys and paying them out of his regular office payroll.
In early 2013, the Nevada Highway Patrol picked Bonaventura up on a suspected DUI. At the time, Bonaventura charged that he had been set up by Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani. In the interview with Nevada Public Radio, Bonaventura repeated charges that he had been set up and expanded the circle of those plotting his demise: that Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell, the Clark County Republican Chairman and the Nevada Highway Patrol had been meeting with Clark County Commissioners to punish him for suing to keep the Henderson and Lauglin constables out of his jurisdiction.
The Clark County Commissioners voted in March to abolish the office at the end of Bonaventura’s term in 2015. And now the state legislature is looking at legislation to abolish the office by July. The legislation would turn the constable’s office over to the Clark County Sheriff. Sources familiar with the situation suggest that the bill may be amended to allow the Clark County Commission to reconstitute the constable’s office if they choose.
Bonaventura says that he is still providing good service to the citizens of Las Vegas with evictions and process-serving and that, like previous attempts to shut down his office, this too will fail. The constable insists the abolition legislation contravenes both the state and federal constitutions. He has a date to show why on April 30 in the Nevada District Court.