NPRI takes legal action after PERS intentionally evades transparency law
- Wednesday, July 6, 2016
For Immediate Release
Contact Michael Schaus, 702-222-0642
LAS VEGAS — Following a 2013 Nevada Supreme Court opinion, Nevada’s Public Employee Retirement System intentionally altered the way it maintained key documents in an effort to render them largely useless to the general public, according to a Petition filed by the Nevada Policy Research Institute.
”By replacing names with ‘non-disclosable’ social security numbers in its actuarial record-keeping documents, PERS has attempted to circumvent the 2013 ruling of the Nevada Supreme Court requiring disclosure,” explained Joseph Becker, the director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation.
CJCL today petitioned the court to once again order PERS to comply with both the letter and spirit of the Nevada Public Records Act and hand over the retirement payout information.
In 2015 NPRI requested retirement records to include on its TransparentNevada.com website — a free resource for public-sector administrators and taxpayers interested in learning about the cost of public sector compensation.
The requested information — similar to that which NPRI had received in the past — was to include the names, employer information, and payments made by PERS to public-sector retirees.
However, following that 2013 decision requiring PERS to provide such details, the agency altered the way it maintains these records — rendering them virtually useless for transparency purposes.
“No retiree names were part of the newly engineered report,” said Becker.
The new report replaces names with social security numbers, which by law cannot be made public. PERS then asserts it is therefore “required” to redact the very social security numbers they inserted instead of names.
“This leaves nothing more than a list of payments to unknown individuals,” explained Becker. “It’s a clear attempt to keep the actual payments from public view.”
The agency has gone even further than simply altering the way in which it maintains payment information to keep it hidden from the public: It has also refused to accommodate NPRI’s requests to adjust the list so that full disclosure of PERS payments can be made public.
Despite admittedly having access to a full list of the names that match the social security numbers included on the report, PERS officials claim that it has no duty to provide the names of these recipients to the public — because doing so would require compiling the requested information from two known sources.
However, a 2015 Nevada Supreme Court decision involving the Las Vegas Metro Police Department strongly indicates otherwise:
When an agency has a computer program that can readily compile the requested information, the agency is not excused from its duty to produce and disclose that information.
Despite having the clear ability to provide the public with useful and complete records, PERS has deliberately subverted transparency by altering its record keeping, and refusing repeated requests for full disclosure.
“Not only has PERS attempted to re-engineer its record-keeping in a way that obscures from public view its critical financial instability — for which the taxpayers of Nevada are ultimately on the hook,” said Becker, “PERS is also violating both the letter and spirit of the Nevada Public Records Act — the express legislative purpose of which is to ‘foster democratic principles by providing members of the public with access to inspect and copy public books and records.’”
Download PERS Petition July 6 2016,