Today also marks the the start of the annual Sunshine Week, a week devoted to celebrating open government and access to public information.
This Is Reno, Reno’s online news and events source, is taking the Washoe County School District to district court over repeated refusals to answer simple questions and to turn over public records.
A complaint was filed last week with the Washoe County’s Second Judicial Court by Stephanie Rice of Midtown Law Reno.
“The school district, despite court directives in the past, continues to refuse to answer simple questions of public interest, and when pressed for additional information, fabricates confidentiality for public records in order to avoid the most basic levels of transparency,” said Bob Conrad, This Is Reno’s publisher and editor.
This Is Reno broke numerous stories in the past year and a half about malfeasance in WCSD’s administration. Those articles documented allegations of a trustee lying to the news media, district officials trying cover up an instance where a student was given back drugs because WCSD deemed the student a confidential informant in a drug case, and the illegal firing of one of its administrators, who also has a pending lawsuit against WCSD.
A report in November also documented WCSD attorneys allegedly lying to court officials in order to avoid turning public records in a separate case. That case alleges school district attorneys were telling the court one thing but internal emails reveal something else entirely.
The Nevada Public Records Act was strengthened in the 2019 session of the Nevada Legislature. Changes went into effect October 1, 2019.
This Is Reno refiled on October 1 records requests WCSD previously refused to turn over or demanded more than $250 to produce.
The new public records order was placed assuming WCSD attorneys would honor the letter of the law. Instead, WCSD responded with canned denials, making no attempt to update its policies in accordance with public records statutes.
“At the very least, filing this complaint now compels WCSD to provide answers it won’t give to the news media, its own employees, parents and students,” Conrad said. “If they won’t respond to the taxpayers who pay their salaries, which is more cost effective for everyone concerned, they can now expend — wastefully — taxpayer resources in court.
“It’s truly unfortunate, but it’s the only option available at this point.”
The complaint is below. It seeks legal, administrative and financial penalties against WCSD officials in accordance with Nevada law for violations of the Nevada Public Records Act.