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City reverses course on records retention after open government advocates raise concerns

By Bob Conrad

The City of Reno last night published an unsigned letter on Twitter calling information about its removal of decades of past meeting records inaccurate. It said, in fact, it is going to retain those records and more.

“The information you may have seen was inaccurate, and we’d like to offer a few quick corrections,” the letter notes. “We are not deleting records nor are we keeping only 3 years of records.”

Not mentioned was the source of that allegedly inaccurate information: Reno City Clerk Mikki Huntsman. Huntsman last week told This Is Reno only what is legally required to be online would be moved into a new online system. Huntsman was encouraged last week to contact us should that information change. She did not.

“Meeting recordings are only required for three years by law,” Huntsman said last week. “Old videos will not be reinstated – not if we’re not required to. Video recordings will not get re-uploaded. Only documents required by law will be re-uploaded.”

The city’s letter from last night did not mention the years of videos in its old system that are no longer publicly available. Instead, the city letter notes meeting videos will be “available on our YouTube channel.”

Huntsman’s statements to This Is Reno drew concern from open government advocates.

“It’s astonishing that a city official would actually admit the city is intentionally reducing transparency so they can ensure they’re not providing any more than is absolutely necessary under the law,” said Richard Karpel with the Nevada Press Association.

The Nevada Open Government Coalition issued an open letter to the city – This Is Reno also signed it – yesterday calling for a reconsideration of what Huntsman told us last week. That letter noted what Huntsman told This Is Reno.  

“In many cases, users of the website could perform multiple searches to locate the information they seek in a matter of minutes, but the city may now require days or even weeks of back-and-forth with city employees to accomplish the same basic task,” open government advocates said.

The City of Reno’s old meeting portal as of Aug. 10, 2022, now missing nearly all of the minutes and videos that were once included alongside other meeting records.

The city’s previous meeting portal no longer has records of meetings past August of 2012. Its new system currently only has records dating back to 2016. Those records from 2016 only show meeting agendas. There are no minutes or videos associated with those meetings.

Huntsman also said last week people could file public records requests for the missing information. The city letter also says city officials are devoted to transparency because the clerk fulfills 21,000 public records requests each year.

This Is Reno has twice now filed public records lawsuits against the city for failing to produce public records in legally required time frames – or simply at all.

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