Written By Las Vegas based Law Clerk: Robert Maxey (Las Vegas, Nevada)
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) passed in 1966 and required our government to be transparent and more inclusive. The act allowed for citizens to have access to public information and be given it at minimal costs upon request. These laws were, however, restricted to the power of the federal government and states soon adopted similar laws.
With an eye toward the FOIA, states pursued new laws providing for an open and honest government. From the 1960’s forward, Open Meeting Laws began showing up in every state. In 1977, Nevada developed some of the strictest requirements of any state for an open government. The Nevada Open Meeting Law (which falls under NRS 240) introduction provides that, “[i]n enacting this chapter, the legislature finds and declares that all public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.”
The seriousness that Nevada placed upon meetings being available to the public has played a role in the outcome of many governmental decisions. Unlike other states, that may have weak open meeting laws, Nevada offers healthy cures to those who disregard the law. Criminal charges may be sought against those who have violated Nevada Open Meeting Law. Further, the Office of the Attorney General of Nevada has to the power to void decisions made at unlawful meetings. This power has been wielded to bar countless decisions subject to the Nevada Open Meeting Law.
While these powers offer teeth to the Nevada Open Meeting Law, the recent passage of AB59 has given even more firepower to the Attorney General. AB59 expanded upon and clarified the requirements needed to conduct an open meeting. Some of these clarifications required more notifications to be added to the agenda of a meeting. These include,
(I) Items on the agenda may be taken out of order;
(II) The public body may combine two or more agenda items for consideration; and
(III) The public body may remove an item from the agenda or delay discussion relating to an item on the agenda at any time.”
More importantly AB59 has allowed for a fine of up to $500, to be assessed against officials who knowingly attend a meeting that violates the law. Additionally penalties like this, will likely result in a decrease in the number of violations that occur each year.
While it is efficient to have elected leaders perform administrative duties without always having to answer to the public directly, it is crucially important that officials stay connected with the public and hear their concerns. A democracy functions best when those who represent us are easily reminded of who and what they are representing. Current Open Meeting Laws allow for this to happen.
Full information about the bill can be found here: AB59
Information regarding Nevada’s History of Open Government can be found here: Open Government
The commentary is for educational and commentary purposes only. If you or someone you know has had your rights violated or feel there are illegal practices occurring in government and would like to be represented by a Nevada attorney, contact our office for a free confidential case review and receive a response within hours. Call Toll Free 866-414-0400.