The PERS secrecy bill (SB384) will be heard tomorrow by the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs. The advocates for secrecy claim that publicizing the names and pension amount of PERS members would lead to cybercrime — a claim flatly rejected by:
- Three Nevada courts, including a unanimous state Supreme Court opinion;
- A top national organization working to educate the public about identity theft — the Identity Theft Resource Center;
- Dozens of courts in the 35 states nationwide that make this information public;
- The Nevada PERS Retirement Board itself, which voted 7-0 to support the original version of SB384 that made names and payout data public;
- Real world experience. As the RGJ Editorial Board astutely noted, “if millions of public retirees’ data has been released for many years across Nevada and the nation and none has been linked to identify theft, the case has been made for lack of harm, not future danger.”
Against that consensus, the arguments for PERS secrecy are best epitomized by state Senator David Parks, who stated before voting to make his $100,000 taxpayer-funded pension secret that:
“As a retired public employee myself, I share the same concerns that [advocates of the bill] have.”
While most view such a blatant conflict of interest as a compelling reason to err on the side of transparency, the majority of Senate Democrats would prefer to keep the public in the dark, as evidenced by their having passed SB384 11-10 last month.
Now that the arguments for secrecy have been roundly rejected by every possible authoritative source, it should be obvious that this bill is not about shielding retirees from possible cybercrime — it’s about shielding the system from transparency, accountability and public scrutiny, while still forcing taxpayers to send PERS $1.5 billion each and every year.