NPRI's litigation center sues CCSD to obtain public records
- Thursday, March 28, 2013
LAS VEGAS — Today, the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation filed a lawsuit under the Nevada Public Records Act against the Clark County School District.
NPRI is seeking a list of government-issued email addresses for CCSD teachers. Joseph Becker, chief legal officer and director of CJCL, will represent NPRI in the lawsuit.
NPRI first requested these public records in June 2012 and again in February 2013. Both times CCSD refused to release the records, claiming, in part, that government-provided email addresses for government employees were part of employees’ personnel records and need to be “safeguarded.”
“The Clark County School District has a long history of delaying and denying public-records requests for information that district bureaucrats don’t want to release,” said Andy Matthews, NPRI’s president. “It’s hard to imagine a record that is more public than a government employee’s government-provided email address, but the stubborn refusal by CCSD officials to follow Nevada’s Public Records Act has left us no choice but to sue to compel obedience to the law.
“Nevada court rulings have made it clear that even email content from government officials’ mailboxes are subject to Nevada’s Public Records Act, so it’s ridiculous for CCSD bureaucrats to pretend that government-provided email addresses for government employees are confidential.”
Matthews noted that the Nevada Supreme Court recently authoritatively re-affirmed that, under the NPRA, access to public records “must be construed liberally” and that restrictions on access “must be construed narrowly.”
“At a time when CCSD is crying poverty to legislators in Carson City, it’s unfortunate that CCSD bureaucrats have decided to waste taxpayer money fighting the release of public information to the public,” Matthews said.
Matthews added that numerous other reporters and media organizations have reported to NPRI employees that CCSD is one of Nevada’s least-transparent government agencies when asked to fulfill public-records requests.
“The principle in this lawsuit is about more than just one specific request,” Matthews said. “The court should send a clear message to CCSD that delaying and denying public-records requests — whether from NPRI, media organizations or private citizens — is illegal and must stop.
“Government exists to serve the public, and it’s time for CCSD to act like it serves the public and not the other way around.”
While Matthews noted that the reasons behind a public-records request are irrelevant in terms of government agencies’ legal obligation to fulfill the request, he willingly shared why NPRI seeks the government-issued email addresses.
“Last year, NPRI reached out to a number of CCSD teachers, informing them of their right to opt out of the Clark County Education Association, and their opportunity, under the contract between CCEA and CCSD, to do so by submitting written notice to the union in the two-week window between July 1 and 15.
“Even though the list we used last summer was woefully incomplete,” said Matthews, “when the CCSD teachers learned of their options, more than 800 exited CCEA.
“This year, we want every teacher to know that he or she has the ability to leave CCEA and save almost $800 a year in dues, while getting better health and legal insurance through alternative organizations.”
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Nevada Education Foundation and the Public Education Foundation. The foundations are named as defendants because, in response to NPRI’s initial request, CCSD stated the Nevada Education Foundation owns the license to the records NPRI seeks but also implied that the Public Education Foundation owns the license.
The complaint names all three organizations as defendants, said Matthews, so CCSD cannot continue its shell game and pretend some other organization owns or controls the records.
Requested in the lawsuit are the records, that the court enjoin CCSD from delaying and denying future legitimate public-records requests, and costs and attorney fees.
The Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation is a public-interest law organization that litigates when necessary to protect the fundamental rights of individuals as set forth in the state and federal constitutions.
Learn more about the Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation and this case at http://npri.org/litigation/.
- An unofficial copy of the complaint is available here: http://www.npri.org/docLib/20130328_NPRIvCCSDComplaint.pdf