Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Las Vegas Sun
Published Friday, June 14, 2013 | 4:02 p.m.
Updated Friday, June 14, 2013 | 4:40 p.m.
Nearly a year after she was terminated from her job with the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office, former Deputy Constable Kristy Henderson is fighting back with a lawsuit.
Henderson was fired on July 13 after she was informed that “her services were no longer needed,” according to an amended complaint filed in Clark County District Court earlier this week.
In the lawsuit, which names Constable John Bonaventura, constable spokesman Lou Toomin, the Constable’s Office and Clark County as defendants, Henderson alleges that she was sexually harassed and that her firing was retaliatory.
Henderson, who was hired by previous Constable Robert Gronauer, alleges that after Bonaventura was elected to the office in 2010, he began making inappropriate sexual comments toward her on a regular basis, including asking her to wear a miniskirt and garters to work, along with other sexually harassing statements.
The suit mentions two other specific instances previously reported by the Sun that preceded Henderson’s firing.
One allegedly occurred in June 2012 when Henderson was called in for what was described as an “informal interview” that would result in no discipline to discuss a citizen complaint against Ray Jacoby, another deputy constable and Henderson’s boyfriend.
Henderson allegedly witnessed the infraction, which led to Jacoby being suspended for five days without pay and Henderson receiving a verbal warning.
The suit alleges Henderson’s rights as a peace officer were violated when she was not informed of her right to have representation during the interview.
Jacoby was fired by the department in August and has filed a lawsuit of his own alleging his termination was retaliatory.
Henderson alleges she was fired, in part, because of her relationship with Jacoby, alleging that Bonaventura told her the office would not “love her” again until she “dumped Ray.”
A second issue mentioned in Henderson’s suit involves her refusal to participate in a reality television program the Constable’s Office was attempting to film.
County commissioners scolded the constable when a video of deputies using profanity on the job surfaced in December 2011. The video was a pilot for a potential reality television series, but representatives from the Constable’s Office told commissioners they weren’t pursuing it any further.
That changed, according to the lawsuit, when Henderson was asked six months later by Toomin to write a biographical statement because producers wanted to feature her in the reality show.
Henderson complied with the order but stated it was only because she was afraid of reprisal, and later told Toomin she would not participate in the reality show, according to the lawsuit. Less than a week later, she was fired.
Two other constable’s officers, Timothy Beckett and Daniel Palazzo, have also filed a suit against Bonaventura stemming from the reality television controversy. Both allege they refused to lie to county commissioners on behalf of Bonaventura about the purpose of the pilot and, as a result, they were demoted and subsequently fired.
Henderson’s suit brings seven causes for action, including intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract and negligent supervision.
It also claims that Henderson’s due process and free speech rights were violated as part of a retaliatory termination.
The suit asks the court for injunctive relief to reinstate Henderson to her pervious position and salary as a deputy constable immediately.
Henderson is also seeking a variety of general, compensatory and special damages in excess of $10,000.
A separate sexual harassment complaint filed by Henderson last summer with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is still under investigation, according to her attorney Ben Scroggins.
County commissioners voted in March to abolish the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office after repeated missteps and controversies. The office will be closed in 2015 unless Bonaventura prevails in a lawsuit he’s filed against the county that is awaiting a ruling from the state Supreme Court.