The Clark County School District is unlawfully and deliberately withholding records necessary to investigate allegations of wrongdoing within two divisions of the district, a just-filed lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit was filed by Nevada Policy (NPRI) after CCSD denied a request for copies of email correspondence between members of the district’s Employee Management Relations (EMR) division and Katrina Nicosia, a regional director of the Student Support Services Division.
Nevada Policy requested the emails to investigate whether Nicosia was pressured by EMR leadership to suppress and seek termination of a whistleblower who reported a new incident of test falsification to the district, about the time of the Matt Kelly testing scandal.
NPRI Senior Vice President Steven Miller made the request as part of his research into the abuse of special-education students within the district, and unlawful retaliation against whistleblowers who refused to go along, as documented in his upcoming 8-part investigative series, “Catch Me If You Can.”
Despite the fact that emails sent by government employees on their government-provided email accounts are unquestionably public records — and have been routinely disclosed by all governments across the state, including CCSD previously — the school district denied the request in its entirety and refused to disclose even a single email.
The district claims that all of the requested emails contained confidential information and were thus exempt from disclosure. But even if this highly unlikely claim were true, the school is still required to disclose the non-confidential portions of those emails, according to NRS 239.010(3):
A governmental entity… shall not deny a request…to receive a copy of a public book or record on the basis that the requested public book or record contains information that is confidential if the governmental entity can redact, delete, conceal or separate the confidential information from the information included in the public book or record that is not otherwise confidential.
Sadly, CCSD has a well-documented history of violating the state’s public records law, which not only denies Nevadans their fundamental right to a transparent government, but also takes millions of dollars out of the classroom, according to NPRI Policy Director Robert Fellner.
“CCSD has spent millions of dollars on legal fees fighting to keep the district’s affairs shielded in secrecy. That’s millions of dollars that should have gone to children and classroom needs, not the district’s self-serving efforts to conceal crucial information from the public,” Fellner said.
“Despite state law mandating government agencies to be fully transparent to the people they ostensibly serve, CCSD knows it can violate the law with impunity, secure in the knowledge that none of its officials will ever face any penalty for their deliberate lawbreaking.”
Nevada Policy is calling on the Nevada Legislature to ensure government officials are treated the same as all Nevada citizens, and finally impose penalties on those who violate the law.
“Nevada citizens face a litany of penalties for failing to comply with any of the numerous edicts passed by the Legislature, so why should government officials be treated any differently?”
NPRI filed the lawsuit on October 15, 2018 in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Clark County, Nevada and is represented by Clark Hill PLLC.