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Court rejects constable’s request; county commission hearing to abolish office can go forward

Updated Monday, March 18, 2013 | 5:41 p.m.

A Clark County district judge says county commissioners can move forward with their discussion about whether to abolish the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office.

Monday afternoon, Judge Rob Bare decided against issuing a restraining order to prevent the commission from taking up the issue at its meeting Tuesday.

Commissioners introduced the ordinance to abolish the office last month using powers given to it under state statute. A public hearing and vote on the measure is scheduled for the commission meeting Tuesday.

Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura filed suit last week against the Clark County Commission, challenging the constitutionality of the commissioners' attempt to abolish the office. The lawsuit, which was served on Clark County officials Monday morning, alleges that his office has been subject to questionable acts, such as the county taking $2 million of the constable funds without public notice, agenda or vote.

Since Bonaventura was elected Las Vegas township constable in 2010, the office has been dogged by controversies including allegations of sexual harassment, the filming of a profanity-laced reality television show pilot and engaging in lawsuits against constable’s offices in other jurisdictions.

The office was abolished previously in 1994 and re-created in 1995 after a badges-for-cash scheme brought down former Las Vegas Constable Don Charleboix .

If the office is eliminated, its functions — they include enforcing evictions and serving civil documents such as subpoenas, property liens, court summonses and wage garnishments — would likely be split between Metro Police and private process servers.

A new bill introduced Monday by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, would transfer all of the constable’s duties to the sheriff in cities larger than 500,000 people, which currently only includes Las Vegas.

“In my discussions with the county commissioners, there is not a need for the constable's office,” Roberson said, adding that he expected the bill to pass within the month. “I and others are concerned about the actions of that office in the last couple of years. I think it's a public-safety issue."

After Monday’s hearing, Bonaventura’s lawyer Kenneth Frizzell said he thought commissioners were targeting Bonaventura for personal reasons and not for the performance of his office, which would invalidate the ordinance.

“There is a very real probability… that this is a popularity issue and not a necessity of the office issue,” he said.

In declining the injunction, Bare said Frizzell failed to prove passing the ordinance, which wouldn’t take effect until 2015, would cause irreparable harm to Bonaventura.

Bare set an April 30 hearing to consider the validity of the constitutional issues raised in Bonaventura's lawsuit, although he stated Monday he thought the ordinance and the state statute supporting it were legal.

“I find that that statue is constitutional,” Bare said. “That statute says that the county commissioners in our state have the authority to abolish the office of the constable if they find it is not necessary in their opinion.”

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