Nevada AG appeals open meetings law decision in secret fax poll controversy

NEVADA — The attorney general’s office has decided to appeal a county judge’s ruling that the Board of Regents of the University and Community College System did not violate the state’s open meetings law in April 1995.The appeal process is expected to take an indeterminate amount of time, according to Deputy Attorney General Bob Auer.”There hasn’t been any change in the status of the appeal,” Auer said. “No court date has been set [and] the procedure hasn’t even been started.”The lawsuit began when members of the Board of Regents allegedly violated the state’s open meetings law after conducting a secret fax poll in April 1995 to reprimand member Nancy Price.The faxed poll read, “The individual members of the University and Community College System of Nevada Board of Regents wish to express their concern and opinion that recent statements to the media by Regent Nancy Price are unsubstantiated, incorrect and potentially damaging to the [UCCSN] system as a whole.”Regents were sent faxes and polled individually by telephone over a 12-hour period. A Washoe District Court judge ruled one year later that the regents did not violate the law. Auer said the decision in Frankie Del Papa v. Board of Regents, No. 9503129 (Nev., May 7, 1996), demonstrated a complete disregard for the open meetings law and the public’s right to know.Nevada’s Open Meeting Law states that members of a public board cannot hold closed sessions on the competence or character of an elected official. It states that meetings such as these must be opened to the public, and the person being examined must be notified in writing.The Reno Gazette-Journal described Price as having “lodged repeated accusations against the board, accusing members of mishandling university business and repeatedly violating the Open Meeting Law.”Auer said he feared other public bodies could get around the Open Meeting Law through telephone calls, e-mails or faxes, if decisions like this continued.