NPRI will appear before the Nevada Supreme Court on March 7, 2018 for oral arguments in its lawsuit against the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS).
The lawsuit stems over PERS’ denial of NPRI’s request for records documenting how taxpayer-funded benefits are calculated and distributed.
Specifically, NPRI requested the precise information ruled public by the Court in the 2013 Reno Newspapers decision, simply updated for the then-current 2014 fiscal year.
However, because the Reno Newspapers ruling was narrow in its scope, PERS argued they could lawfully conceal this public information in future years by simply changing its record-keeping practices so that there was no single existing report with all of the requested information.
At the trial court, Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson found these arguments to be without merit, and thus ordered PERS to create a report with the requested, public information. PERS then appealed Judge Wilson’s ruling to the state Supreme Court, with next week’s oral arguments representing the final step in that appeal process.
NPRI Transparency Director Robert Fellner issued the following statement:
At its core, this case is about the intent of Nevada’s Public Records Act. Is it designed to, as the legislative purpose plainly states, “foster democratic principles” by creating an open government whereby citizens are entitled to inspect the books and records of government agencies?
Or, as PERS contends, does the law merely allow the public to access only those records which government agencies, themselves, choose to make public?
We think District Court Judge James Russell got it right in 2011 when he ruled that records related to the governmental function of calculating and distributing taxpayer-funded pension benefits are public. We think the Nevada Supreme Court got it right in 2013 when they unanimously affirmed that part of Russell’s decision. And we likewise feel Judge Wilson got it right when he ordered PERS to disclose that information to us in the instant case.
We hope the Nevada Supreme Court will not only uphold Judge Wilson’s ruling, but do so in a manner that makes clear that transparency in government is mandatory, and not something that can be vacated on a technicality.
For more information, please contract NPRI Transparency Director Robert Fellner at 702.222.0642 or via e-mail at RF@NPRI.ORG.