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Constable must forfeit office, Nevada Supreme Court rules

Updated July 31, 2020 - 8:24 pm

North Las Vegas Constable Robert Eliason is ineligible to hold office and has therefore automatically forfeited his elected position, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled this week.

The embattled lawman, who is not a certified police officer, has served in office since January 2015 and is in his second term. But he has never finished Peace Officer Standards and Training certification, which Nevada law requires he complete within a maximum of 18 months of taking office.

Despite the court’s ruling, it was not clear Friday whether Eliason had vacated his position.

Eliason’s former campaign manager and spokeswoman Lisa Mayo-DeRiso said the constable had no comment on the ruling “due to other pending litigation.” Mayo-DeRiso did not have details on what that pending litigation was, and Eliason’s attorney, Jeffrey Barr, could not be reached for comment.

As constable, Eliason oversees a handful of deputies who carry out evictions, serve civil court papers and process abandoned-vehicle complaints, among other duties. His annual salary is more than $100,000.

Throughout his more than five years in office, the 58-year-old former North Las Vegas City councilman has argued that a neurological condition prevents him from completing a situp test that is part of the certification process.

Eliason came under scrutiny for serving his entire first term, and part of his second, without becoming certified.

The constable’s legal battle began in July 2017 after the Clark County Commission, which oversees his office, began discussions over whether to declare his office vacant and appoint a successor.

Eliason sued the commission, contending the body did not have the authority to determine whether his position was forfeited. Instead, he argued, an elected constable could only be removed through an action brought by the state’s attorney general, at the governor’s direction.

Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish granted Eliason a preliminary injunction that has allowed him to stay in office. The constable decisively won a second term in November 2018.

His case moved from state to federal court before it was referred to the Nevada Supreme Court in March 2019. Cadish, who now serves on the state Supreme Court, recused herself from the case.

Justices ruled Thursday that county commissioners could not remove an elected constable from office. But they also found that state law required Eliason to automatically forfeit his office when he failed to become certified within the timeline laid out by law.

“Nothing in the statute suggests that the county, the Board, or any other party must take any action to effect or formalize the forfeiture or that the constable has any right to retain office after failing to timely obtain POST certification,” the ruling said.

According to state law, the County Commission is responsible for appointing a new constable to a vacant office.

But commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said Friday that county lawmakers will mull whether the position is even needed before turning to an application process to fill the vacancy.

“It will be up to the commission first to determine if we want to bring those resources in-house or if we want to appoint someone,” said Kirkpatrick, whose district covers a wide swath of North Las Vegas. “That’s been a controversial thing, constables as a whole, for a very long time.”

She added that she believed Eliason had “done a good job” as constable.

The Las Vegas constable’s elected office was eliminated and its work was transferred to the Metropolitan Police Department after allegations of misconduct by former Constable John Bonaventura.

State lawmakers have taken steps to try to prevent a legal kerfuffle similar to Eliason’s from occurring again.

Last year, the Legislature changed existing laws to require constable candidates in North Las Vegas and Henderson to become certified before they file to run for office. The change took effect in October. The next regular elections for both constable’s offices are in 2022.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Shea Johnson contributed to this report.

NLV Constable Supreme Court Decision by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

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