Three ways to put teeth in Nevada's public records act
Las Vegas Review-Journal
January 18, 2018
Nevada’s public records law has a big bark, but little bite. It’s time to change that.
The law states that public access to government records “foster(s) democratic principles.” The records act “must be construed liberally to carry out this important purpose.”
That’s strong rhetoric, and rightly so. Government officials work for the public. That makes members of the public the boss. One of your rights as a supervisor is to know what your employees are doing.
Imagine if your employer came to your office to find out what you’re working on, and you told him it was none of his business. Think you’d have a job for very long? Yet that’s what government employees often do.
Right now, numerous Review-Journal reporters are working on stories that involve government misconduct or mismanagement of government funds. These are stories you’ll want to read, but the reporters are waiting — sometimes for months at a time — for public agenices to produce documents.
If an agency refuses a request, you have to sue. Just last week a District Court ruled that the Clark County coroner improperly withheld records requested by the Review-Journal. The RJ sued last July, and the judge ordered the agency to produce the records and pay the RJ’s $32,000 in legal bills.
Getting attorney fees back is good, but it’s not enough. As Nevada’s pre-eminent news source, the RJ has the resources to sue when government officials disobey the law. Most requesters don’t.
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