May 14, 2009

Nevada AG to school district: Don't worry about those open meeting laws

Nevada's Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto has ruled that the Clark County School District did not violate open meeting laws by withholding information regarding budget cuts from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The RJ wanted to detail for readers how the district could save $120 million from its 2009-10 budget. After repeated attempts to secure the information, it finally received it mere hours before the School Board meeting took place.

The attorney general's office asked [Superintendent Walt] Rulffes why the information was not available to the public sooner. He responded that the information was privileged.

Ruffles said the information was part of a private e-mail to staff that also included candid comments about possible pay cuts and further cuts "that he did not want to disclose yet," said George H. Taylor, the senior deputy attorney general.

Taylor determined that such private and deliberative discussions on policy were protected under executive privilege.

This despite that fact that the RJ only requested information regarding the budget cuts and not any of the private discussions.

The purpose of open meeting laws is to allow the public access to important information on things that directly affect their lives. This decision is a direct slap in the face of those efforts.