For the record, I’m in complete agreement with writer, and Executive Director of the Nevada Press Association, Richard Karpel with respect to his support of Nevada’s “Sunshine Laws” and also agree with his assessment that “By and large, the enforcement mechanisms and penalties have worked.”

However, I completely disagree with his views about the efficacy of putting more “teeth” in Nevada’s Public Record Act and one need only look to the State of Washington and the abysmal results of such a scheme to see why I feel that way.  

For example, in 2016, the Washington State Auditor’s Office found that local Washington governments spent more than $60 million (taxpayer) dollars to comply with public records requests. 

The amount spent by local governments defending against Public Records Act claims also runs into the tens of millions every year, although I have no statistics to support this assertion.

The laws in both states are amazingly similar.  The main difference is that Nevada (in my opinion, wisely) limits the legal damages available when public officials make reasonable good faith efforts to comply with the law.  

I do agree that public officials should be held accountable when they willfully fail to comply with the law, but suggesting that they be penalized for not complying with every jot and tittle leads to the cottage industry of suing local governments for minor infractions when those governments made reasonable attempts to comply with the Legislature’s intent. 

 That industry is  flourishing in the state of Washington and has literally bankrupted some smaller communities because they missed one email among thousands that COULD have been responsive to a Public Records Request.

The situation is so bad that local governments cannot purchase insurance against an inadvertent Public Records Act violation.  

Can’t get insurance because the risk is too great:   that is where I believe Mr. Karpel’s suggestion will lead.

If you’re interested in this topic, Washington’s Municipal Research and Service Center is an excellent resource:  http://mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Legal/Open-Government/Public-Records-Act-Court-Decisions.aspx

For a sample of the extent to which a single minor violation can lead, please visit:  https://www.smithfreed.com/legal-updates/wa-case-update-the-public-records-act-violations-exemptions-and-per-page-penalties/



John Millard

Winnemuca, NV