Sunshine Week: A review of AB 239
Assembly Bill 239, a bill revising Nevada’s open-meeting laws to require public bodies to post agenda-item support documents, meeting minutes or audio recordings, and meeting videos on their websites, could increase public oversight of state and local public bodies by making supporting documents accessible 24 hours a day. However, despite these efforts to make public-meeting information more accessible, it appears the onus could still rest on the public and not the public body to initiate publication of the information.
Currently, the law requires a public body, such as a city council or school board, to provide individuals with a copy of any agenda-supporting documents provided to public-body members – but only if that individual requests those documents.
Under AB 239, a public body would be required to also post these supporting documents online at “the date and time the public body first provides the supporting material to a person who requests the supporting material.” This language could reasonably be interpreted to mean that if no person makes a request for the documents, the public body has no obligation to post the materials online.
At first glance, it would seem that AB 239’s alternative requirement to post supporting documents online at “the date and time the public body first makes the supporting material available to the public,” would fix that potential loophole.
However, as often times happens to NPRI – at least with the Clark County school board – public-body members receive supporting documents which are not included in the package of materials initially offered to the public. This practice, which leaves the false impression that members of the public have all the documents that elected officials receive, would raise the question of whether the public body, under AB 239, would be obligated to post online the information given to the elected officials, but not the public.
If lawmakers wanted to eliminate any wiggle room in AB 239, they should model the law after NRS 241.020 (4) which requires all public bodies that maintain a website to post notice of their meetings online. If AB 239 required that all public bodies that maintain a website post all their supporting documentation online, these loopholes would be eliminated.