State refuses to release investigative report on senator who resigned
The investigative report on Democratic state Sen. Mark Manendo, who resigned after it was completed, is not subject to the state’s Public Records law and will not be released.
That’s the word from the Legislative Counsel Bureau in response to a request from The Nevada Independent. The 37-page letter also includes a copy of the agreement the LCB signed with a law firm to do the probe on May 1, about a month before the session ended.
The firm charged taxpayers a “discounted rate” of $265 an hour for an attorney and $120 an hour for a paralegal. (LCB Director Rick Combs says no final bill has been received, but he will release the number.)
The reasons for the refusal to release the document, which found more than a dozen instances of inappropriate behavior during the 2017 session, centered on protections for the legislators and the process, not the privacy rights of the alleged victims. The Independent made the request because we believe a report paid for by taxpayers and exposing conduct of an elected official should be released. We were very cognizant of possible identifying characteristics that might be in the report, exposing the women who bravely came forward to talk to the investigator, and we planned on obscuring those to the best of our abilities.
LCB Chief Litigation Counsel Kevin Powers cites legislative privilege in denying the request, adding “it involves a legislative investigation and other actions taken or performed within the sphere of legitimate legislative activity under the constitutional doctrines of separation of powers and legislative privilege and immunity….”
The sphere of legitimate legislative activity. I’ll remember that phrase for a while vis a vis Manendo.
Powers also said the request would be denied as “a threshold matter” because “it would require the LCB to create new documents or customized reports…” The state Supreme Court has found that this can nullify the Public Records Law, you see.
My favorite reason to deny: “The Legislature, its Houses, committees, agencies, caucuses, members, officers and staff do not come within the statutory definition of ‘governmental entity’ as that term is used in the Public Records Law.”
I did not make that up.
I want to reiterate that as a news organization we generally prefer transparency to opacity. We made the request because we believe this information should be made public while protecting the identities of the women.
You can see the full legal analysis here.
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