Monday, March 18, 2013

Some 411 on "Vegas 911!"

Back in January, and just as the Steven Brooks scandal began kicking into high gear, a sideshow to the media circus' main event emerged when Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura agreed to "provide security" for Brooks when he first returned to Carson City. But wait, how could do he do that? And why was he injecting himself into the Brooks affair?

Bonaventura claimed he was filling a void in law enforcement. Others, however, claimed that he was just trying to settle a score with political rival and Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas). And since then, more questions have arisen on the very necessity of the Constable's Office.

As of late, the Las Vegas Constable's Office has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. We already mentioned the Brooks scandal above. John Bonaventura was arrested on a drunk driving charge last month, though Clark County DA later decided to drop the charge. Last year, Bonaventura faced sexual harassment allegations. And of course, there was the "Reno 911!"-esque reality TV audition in 2011.

Yikes. There's been a whole lot of drama at that office. So what is it actually responsible for? Here's the condensed Wikipedia version of an explanation.

Constables are elected peace officers who have statewide powers similar to sheriffs, marshals and police officers, as per NRS 289.150 , but in practice some constables maintain a relatively low profile in the law enforcement community. Constables and their deputies must be Nevada POST certified category 1 or category 2 within 1 year of being sworn in, in order to keep their peace officer status. [...]

The primary duties of constables are to act as a civil enforcement agency. This includes the service in minor civil cases in the Justice Courts of subpoenas, evictions, summons, vehicle and property liens, and wage garnishments, and also enforcing vehicle registration laws.

This is why Kirkpatrick and other state legislators are considering legislation to clarify the role of constables. Meanwhile, Clark County Commissioners are considering abolishing the Las Vegas Township Constable's Office altogether. After all, why have this office do tasks that Metro and other local law enforcement agencies can easily take on?

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani proposed the ordinance.

"The ordinance that I plan to bring says that the office is redundant, it's no longer working in the way that we believe it should and therefore we need to abolish it, and in two years, we still have an opportunity to look at that."

That, in turn, has led to this.

Bonaventura filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the commissioners in an attempt to prevent them from taking action to abolish his position. A hearing is scheduled for Monday, one day before the commissioners were set to discuss eliminating his job.

In the lawsuit, Bonaventura is seeking to challenge the constitutionality of the commissioners' attempt to abolish the constable’s office. The lawsuit 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.

And that, in turn, has led to this.

Clark County officials have demanded that Constable John Bonaventura outline why he hired lawyers for more than $30,000 or be held personally liable for the expense.

The letter [...] essentially says Bonaventura may have broken the law, needs to pay up or the district attorney will be involved.

And this is all over a supplementary law enforcement agency best known for serving foreclosure notices... And jumping deep into scandals.

Frankly, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this. How did John Bonaventura win elected office (again)? Does Clark County still need constables for law enforcement? And may it finally be time to overhaul and update our law enforcement framework?

Perhaps John Bonaventura is serving a useful purpose. With his wild antics, he's highlighting this problem. It's become more difficult for County Commissioners and state legislators to just sweep this embarrassing series of incidents under the rug. Something must be done.

So what will be done? That will be up to Clark County Commissioners. They should just know that should they decide to shift current constable duties to local police departments, the police departments must be better trained in constituent services.

No comments:

Post a Comment