Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2014

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Former constable Bonaventura dies

John Bonaventura, a maverick Las Vegas constable who during a turbulent six years in the 1980s battled government leaders over issues including service fees and his job responsibilities, died Sunday. He was 62.

Bonaventura, the brother of District Judge Joe Bonaventure and the father of former Democratic Assemblyman John Bonaventura, died in Las Vegas from what is believed to be a heart attack.

Services were Thursday in Tucson, Ariz., where Bonaventura and his brother, Joe, a local justice of the peace at the time John was constable, were raised after their family moved from New York. The brothers have long spelled their last names differently.

The family asked that no details about John Bonaventura, including his date and place of birth, be released to the news media, officials at Palm Mortuary said.

John Bonaventura came to office in 1980, replacing Constable Woody Cole, who was first elected in 1944 and died in office in 1979.

"John and Woody were from the old school," said Las Vegas Constable Robert "Bobby G." Gronauer, a Metro Police officer at the time Bonaventura was constable. "They did things much different than we do today. Back then, Las Vegas was still a cowboy town, and Woody and John fit that image."

But, by the early 1980s, the world of politics had changed and Bonaventura's old-fashioned methods often clashed with those of the Clark County Commission and Nevada Legislature.

In 1985 the Legislature refused Bonaventura's request to raise the constable's fees for serving summonses, subpoenas and other court documents.

In 1986 the County Commission considered using a Nevada law that allowed counties with populations of 250,000 or more to abolish the constable's office. That action, however, was not taken until several years later.

In the 1990s the elected post that also oversees evictions was re-established. Gronauer was elected in 1999, just the fifth Las Vegas constable in 57 years.

At the core of Bonaventura's problems was that his office, which was then -- and is today -- run by a self-supporting enterprise fund, had a $62,000 deficit. By comparison, Gronauer's office at the end of the past fiscal year in June returned a $347,000 surplus to the county.

In 1984 Bonaventura was involved in an auto accident in which the car he was driving nearly hit a Metro motorcycle officer.

Bonaventura later lost the use of his county vehicle and in 1986 again angered county commissioners when he refused their request to spend at least 25 percent of his work hours serving papers. Bonaventura, according to news accounts of the time, cited that he no longer had use of a county car to do that job.

A complete list of survivors was not made available.

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