A private investigator may soon be ordered to disclose who hired him to track Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and former Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung’s vehicles with a GPS tracking device.
Washoe County Second Judicial Court Judge David Hardy on Monday said his decision is expected “within a week.”
At issue is whether private investigator David McNeely can keep his client confidential. His attorney, Ryan Gormley, argued the client’s identity is privileged and a trade secret.
McNeely was hired last year to trace both politician’s movements prior to the election. Schieve and Hartung sued McNeely to disclose the client so they can take further legal action.
Their attorney, Adam Hosmer-Henner, argued the surreptitious tracking was “offensive and objectionable” and caused “anguish and distress.”
Neither side had a specific law to cite or a similar case to support their argument.
“I want to be candid, I mean, the weakest point on both of our arguments is, I can’t [cite] another case that’s reached this exact same conclusion,” Gormley said. “If I had found one, I would like to be able to stand up here and argue for you.”
Hardy has to decide whether identifying McNeely’s client is considered a trade secret or privileged information.
“The only question for the court today is whether the identity of a single customer is a trade secret. It is not,” Hosmer-Henner said. “The anonymity … remains a continuing source of anxiety and consternation of plaintiffs.”
Hartung said his daughter was actually being documented driving his vehicle. The tracking data was released by the Sparks Police Department and has since been published online.
McNeely told Sparks Police he was hired for a political purpose and it was “nothing personal.”
A discovery commissioner with the court has already determined the client should be identified.
“While the identity of a private investigator’s client is arguably confidential information that could be entitled to protection under an appropriate set of circumstances, Defendants have not shown particularized harm that would occur as a result of an order directing them to disclose their client’s identity,” Discovery Commissioner Wesley Ayres wrote in March.
“Even assuming such harm, Plaintiffs’ interest in the disclosure of that information, coupled with the public interest in disclosure of that information in this case, substantially outweigh any interest that Defendants have in withholding or delaying the disclosure of the identity of their client.”
Hardy said Ayres’ work was thorough.
“Plaintiff described Commissioner Ayres’ work as methodically dismantling each of the arguments presented by the defense,” Hardy said. “I found fellow Commissioner Ayres’ work to be thorough, exhaustive in his attempts.”
The Nevada Legislature is considering a bill to outlaw similar GPS tracking based on this case.