Appeal, other Nevada media seek release of Assembly panel report
March 28, 2013
LAS VEGAS — A coalition of Nevada media including The Associated Press made a formal demand Thursday for the Legislature to release a report reviewed by a select panel that recommended the expulsion of Assemblyman Steven Brooks.
Attorney Donald Campbell, who filed the two-page open records request on behalf of 13 newspaper and broadcast entities and the Nevada Press Association, said the report commissioned at taxpayer expense in response to a question of importance to voters throughout the state was clearly a public document.
“The report was public in nature, it’s been considered by a public body about a public official,” Campbell said. “By its very nature it is open to scrutiny by the public.”
Assembly Democratic Majority Leader William Horne, the select commission chairman, said in Carson City that the seven-member panel relied on advice from its lawyers that information in the report was confidential. Horne confirmed receiving a copy of Campbell’s letter, which also was delivered to state legislative lawyers.
“Legislative counsel are in possession of this and they will make an appropriate response,” Horne said.
Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, didn’t immediately respond to questions about the media request.
Campbell said some elements of the report might be redacted to comply with federal health privacy laws.
“But the rest should be made public,” the media lawyer said, “and we intend to exhaust every effort and every means under the law to obtain that result.”
The report — two, 25-page summaries and a thick white binder with 900 pages of supporting material — was prepared by Las Vegas attorney Mark Ferrario, who was hired as the panel’s independent counsel on Feb. 28.
The seven-member Assembly commission reviewed it late Tuesday for three hours behind closed doors before emerging to recommend Brooks’ expulsion in a 6-1 vote.
The Assembly on Thursday ratified the panel recommendation by voice vote, marking the first time since Nevada became a state in 1864 that a member of the state Legislature has been expelled.
Brooks’ attorney, Mitchell Posin, said he and Brooks would decide whether to challenge the expulsion.
Mark Hinueber, legal counsel to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, called the open records demand “a collective effort by all the news organizations of the state.”
“We believe that the non-privileged portions of the report should be released,” he said.
Also backing the request are the Las Vegas Sun, Reno Gazette-Journal, The Nevada Appeal and KLAS-TV Channel 8 in Las Vegas, along with Las Vegas City Life, Las Vegas Weekly, El Tiempo Las Vegas, VegasInc., Pahrump Valley Times, Mesquite Local News and Las Vegas Business Press.