For Immediate Release
Contact Michael Schaus, 702-222-0642
CARSON CITY — The Nevada Policy Research Institute is welcoming the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada’s (PERS) decision to appeal a recent District Court ruling that forced the agency to hand over public retiree payout data to the Institute.
“The truth is, the trial court’s decision could have, and should have, been better for future transparency efforts,” explained Joseph Becker, director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation. “Hopefully the Supreme Court will set an even stronger precedent for transparency among government agencies.”
District Judge James Wilson of the First Judicial District in late January ruled that PERS must obey the Nevada Public Records Act and provide the state records NPRI had requested.
When NPRI had made the request in 2015, PERS replied that it was now unable to provide the same information, which included names, because it had changed its internal documents to replace retiree names with Social Security numbers, which are by law redacted from public reports. (Read more about the case here.)
The change had been made by PERS after being ordered by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2013 to release the records in question to the policy institute.
Following last month’s Wilson ruling that the agency provide NPRI with records in the original form, with names, the agency announced it would appeal — stating that reattaching the names to the report would essentially be creating “a new record,” and is therefore not required under Nevada law.
The agency’s decision to appeal, said Becker, presents an opportunity for the state Supreme Court to establish precedent regarding the actual scope of Nevada’s public records law.
“At issue here is whether or not PERS is really ‘creating a new record’ by simply compiling easily accessible data or existing reports that it already has on hand,” he explained.
“In today’s digital age, it seems ridiculous that an agency could avoid compliance with public information laws by simply altering the reports it creates internally,” he added.
The agency’s history of stonewalling on this issue is well documented, according to Nevada Policy Research Institute Transparency Director Robert Fellner
“Unfortunately, such blatant disregard for public oversight has been a recurring theme at PERS,” commented Fellner. “PERS has lost in District Court, then at the Nevada Supreme Court, then unsuccessfully lobbied the legislature, then lost yet again at the District Court — and now it believes it can further delay disclosure by appealing.”