PERS secrecy bill: A rebuttal

Robert Fellner

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:

  1. Three Nevada courts, including a unanimous state Supreme Court opinion;
  2. A top national organization working to educate the public about identity theft — the Identity Theft Resource Center;
  3. Dozens of courts in the 35 states nationwide that make this information public;
  4. The Nevada PERS Retirement Board itself, which voted 7-0 to support the original version of SB384 that made names and payout data public;
  5. 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.

Robert Fellner

Robert Fellner

Vice President & Director of Policy

Robert Fellner joined the Nevada Policy Research Institute in December 2013 and currently serves as the Institute’s Vice President and Director of Policy. Robert has written extensively on the issue of transparency in government. He has also conducted legal research and assisted in crafting legal arguments for numerous public records-related lawsuits, including one which prevailed at the Nevada Supreme Court, resulting in a landmark decision that protected and expanded Nevadans’ rights to access and inspect government records.

An expert on government compensation and its impact on taxes, Robert has authored multiple studies on public pay and pensions. He has been published in Business Insider, Forbes.com, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, RealClearPolicy.com, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, ZeroHedge.com and elsewhere.

Robert has lived in Las Vegas since 2005 when he moved to Nevada to become a professional poker player. Robert has had a remarkably successfully poker career including two top 10 World Series of Poker finishes and being ranked #1 in the world at 10/20 Pot-Limit Omaha cash games.

Additionally, his economic analysis on the minimum wage won first place in a 2011 George Mason University essay contest. He also independently organized a successful grassroots media and fundraising effort for a 2012 presidential candidate, before joining the campaign in an official capacity.