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September 16, 2014

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Constables in outlying areas see merit in effort to eliminate Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office

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Steve Marcus

Deputy Constable Patrick Geary works on paperwork during an eviction in an apartment near Desert Inn Road and Joe W. Brown Drive on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. The resident had already moved out.

Within the next month, Clark County commissioners could vote to do away with the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office, a source of consternation for the board since 2011.

Although the ordinance that will be introduced at today’s commission meeting specifically mentions abolishing the Las Vegas constable, the same statutory powers could be used to do away with the 10 other constable’s offices throughout the county.

The behavior that put the Las Vegas Constable’s Office on the county commission’s radar and prompted an examination of the services it provides hasn’t been found at outlying constable’s offices, many of which are much smaller than in Las Vegas.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said he’s happy with the job other constable’s offices were doing and had heard positive feedback from constituents in the areas they serve.

“I’ve been told in outlying areas it’s extremely important. They’re a reliable service agency, and private options aren’t always available there,” Sisolak said of the other 10 constable’s offices. “I’ve never contemplated nor have I heard anyone else contemplating getting rid of or eliminating the other township constables.”

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. The offices are self-funded, using fees collected from serving documents.

If the Las Vegas Constable’s Office were abolished, its duties likely would be split between private companies and Metro Police.

Henderson Township Constable Earl Mitchell called the actions of Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura and his deputies “a rare level of abuse of power” and said he supported actions by the commission to rein in the office.

But he said constable’s offices provided much-needed services and outsourcing them to a private company would reduce oversight and accountability.

"The preservation of the constable's office itself is imperative to protect our community and save our taxpayer dollars, as well as avoid burdening Metro (Police), who (have) their hands full protecting our streets,” Mitchell said in an email. “We must work together to ensure competent and qualified people are in charge of this important office and it is again able to do what it was designed to do, which is assist our law enforcement and support the courts in a professional and respectable manner.”

Mitchell’s office, as well as the Laughlin Constable’s Office, is the subject of a lawsuit currently before the Nevada Supreme Court that Bonaventura filed in July, accusing deputies from those offices of encroaching on territory under the jurisdiction of the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office.

Unlike the Las Vegas office, which uses a number of deputies to serve the large area it covers, Boulder Township Constable Steve Hampe said he did most of his work with only occasional help from deputies.

Hampe, a retired Boulder City police officer, said he knew most of the people he’d served documents to and brought a personal touch to the job.

“If they decide to go ahead and eliminate the office, I would be unhappy because now we have someone coming in to deal with citizens of Boulder City who might not know the citizens,” he said. “Unfortunately, they’re not going to give it the care that I give it.”

Because they are self-funded, constable’s offices already act like private businesses, Hampe said, and they benefited from an added level of oversight because constables are elected by the public.

“John Bonaventura, it’s his problem what he’s done. If there is anything that pours over onto us, there’s nothing we’re going to be able to do about it,” Hampe said. “Hopefully, the county realizes we’re doing a good job out here. We haven’t had any problems, and we don’t anticipate having any problems.”

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  1. The previous Boulder City Constable was arrested for several crimes. It's an office that is replete with opportunities for corruption. Let them all go...

  2. Larry Markotay's trail and death had nothing to do with him being a former Constable. That part just made for better headlines. His actions was between him and a bad relationship. He killed himself over it. Was not about corruption in office.

  3. A constable gave me a ticket for not registering my car. But,
    in fact, I had just drove in from CA. I still had the suitcase in my car! He said I was a liar, based on my Driver's License saying I was a long time resident. He threatened to arrest me. And, charge me with resisting. He called me a liar, and said maybe 'I stole the car'.He verbally berated me. And, said if I tried to dispute the ticket, who would say I was speeding, ran a stop sign, and was wreckless. He made me feel abused, and sick to my stomach. He totally abused his position. And, lied. Why was he so abusive. This office needs to be reigned in!

  4. Thats a fantastic picture. The tenant had already moved out?

  5. Don't judge all by the actions of one. His office is corrupt and his deputies are bullies and Metro wannabees. They have no business stopping people for traffic violations buy they do it anyway , and then get stupid and abuse thier power. Stick a fork in them they're done.