Sexually Harassing Employees,
An Ugly Turf War, Lying to Officials,
And The Profanity-Laden Video That Won’t go away
In the law enforcement food chain, Constables are basically bottom feeders, with slightly more power than Parking Enforcement officers, less respected than Animal Control. Yet the once invisible members of local law enforcement have suddenly stolen the spotlight with allegations of sexual harassment, a turf war which has a many of the elected officials vowing to ignore state law, and video tape of officers cursing and acting outside the scope of their duties.
Constables are literally paper pushers with a badge, and until the housing market crashed and foreclosures and evictions skyrocketed, most valley residents never paid them much attention. While technically “Peace Officers” under Nevada Law (authorized to carry a Taser and firearm) their days are spent enforcing evictions and serving civil documents such as subpoenas, property liens, court summonses and wage garnishments and most are funded, not by tax dollars but rather through the fees they charge. Having no budgetary muscle, the Clark County Commissioners generally left them alone.
That was until John Bonaventura took over the Las Vegas Township Constable’s Office and demanded an end to Constable poaching work outside of their jurisdiction. Taking advantage of the backlog present in Bonaventura’s office, constables from smaller townships with less workload would offer businesses in Las Vegas a more timely service. Bonaventura had enough and demanded the Clark County Assistant Manager Jeff Wells and District Attorney Jeff Troll address the issue. Thus the “Constable Wars” began.
Although the state eventually sided with Bonaventura, he may eventually regret the increased scrutiny his office would receive. Had Bonaventura maintained the status quo, perhaps the infamous the video posted on his personal Web page, would not have been brought the attention of local NBC affiliate KSNV, and eventually the Commissioners, who called the Constable to their chambers to explain himself.
The low quality video, in which deputy constables are shown cursing, making a traffic stop and referring to themselves as “police,” was disconcerting to the Commissioners, including Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who told the Constable, ” You could not do a worse service to the citizens of Clark County.”
Bonaventura and his officers tried to downplay the video, entitled “Dec. 15, 2011, Test Pilot Reel for National Reality Show,” as joke by the video’s producer, Mark Favreau. But then later described it as “training video” of “how not to act” on the job. In the end Bonaventura assured the public “that “none of us are in favor of the show. It’s going nowhere. We aren’t doing it.”
“That’s why we didn’t run it by the county people, because we didn’t have plans to go forward with it in the first place,” he said
But it seems Bonaventura might not have been telling the truth. According to the Las Vegas Sun, a Clark County animal control officer reported a video crew filming Deputy Constable Patrick Geary at a July 18 eviction. Animal control was there because cats were left in the residence.
The Sun also reported it had obtained recorded conversations with Bonaventura’s public information officer, Lou Toomin, who denies the office is doing a reality TV show. However, Toomin adds, any talk about such matters “is a secret … after the exposure we got from (the YouTube video).” He later adds, “It’s not back out in the open again.”
That isn’t even the worst news Bonaventura’s department received last week. The Sun is also reporting that Kristy Henderson, Bonaventura’s only female deputy, filed sexual harassment charges against him personally.
The 14-page complaint contains allegations of a pattern of sexual harassment beginning right after Bonaventura took office in 2011. Henderson allegations include a February 2011 incident where the constable asked her to wear a “mini-skirt and garter” to work instead of a deputy’s uniform. A June 2011 incident where Bonaventura walked around the office with his pants zipper open, was described by another female employee as something Bonaventura did regularity.
Smelling the blood in the water, Jordan Ross Constable of Laughlin vows he will fight the order to stay out of Las Vegas, claiming he “brought a better quality of service to Las Vegas Township.”
North Las Vegas Constable Herb Brown made his feelings about the order to stay out of Vegas very clear, saying it was “a bunch of crap.”