A big win at the Nevada Supreme Court!
Yesterday a groundbreaking decision from the Nevada Supreme Court torpedoed attempts by the Nevada Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) to conceal important facts from the taxpaying public.
As part of Nevada Policy’s ongoing transparency project — TransparentNevada.com— the Institute in 2015 requested data on payouts PERS makes to retired public-sector workers. The data requested was only the most recent information of the sort the Supreme Court had ordered PERS to disclose earlier, in response to a public-records lawsuit by the Reno Gazette-Journal. PERS, however, proceeded to intentionally change its record-keeping after the newspaper’s court victory — scattering the requested information into multiple different records — in an attempt to keep the data hidden from the public. PERS then argued that “public records” should be defined narrowly to only include existing documents or reports, rather than all forms of recorded information related to governmental affairs.
The state agency’s scheme, however, backfired spectacularly: The new ruling actually strengthens the right of Nevadans to access public records. It’s a huge win for government accountability and the very people government is supposed to serve. (Read more)
Unfortunately, PERS isn’t the only government agency that regularly tries to flout the state’s public records law. Earlier this week, Nevada Policy filed suit against the Clark County School District (CCSD) for deliberately withholding records necessary to investigate allegations of wrongdoing within two divisions of the district. Nevada Policy had requested a variety of emails as part of an investigation into abuse of special education students and the district’s unlawful retaliation against whistleblowers who refused to go along with administrator’s misdeeds. Unsurprisingly, however, the district refused to provide the records, forcing Nevada Policy to take legal action. The blatant disregard agencies like CCSD show for transparency is precisely why lawmakers must add teeth to Nevada’ public records law by adding penalties against those who break it. (Read more)
Transparency is important for even the most mundane sectors of government — but in something like special education, where the most vulnerable students and their families depend on a government system every day, it is absolutely crucial. During the last legislative session, to help protect these students, a bill was proposed to place cameras in special education classrooms. The cameras would provide administrators and police with a necessary tool to investigate alleged incidents of abuse, thus protecting children and families from falling victim to a few bad actors in any given school. And yet, the bill failed to pass. Why? Well, as Channel 8 points out near the end of their recent report, the teacher union — one of the most politically powerful unions in the state — is staunchly opposed to such an accountability measure. (Read more)
Laws designed to protect worker’s rights should do exactly that. Unfortunately, thanks to the crony nature of union leadership over the decades, these laws often underminethe individual rights of workers while strengthening the monopoly-like control many public sector unions have over the workforce. Nevada Policy has identified three simple reforms that would do what our current labor laws have, for decades, failed to do: prioritize the individual rights of workers. What’s more, all three reforms are supported by both union and non-union workers. (Read more)