The legislative counsel bureau has denied the Nevada Press Association’s request to release all materials used in the decision to expel Steven Brooks from the Assembly except those declared private under federal law.
Press Association members including the Nevada Appeal joined in the demand for release of as much information in the report as allowed by federal law to help the public learn exactly why Brooks was expelled.
Press Association director Barry Smith said the organization will meet soon to decide what to do about the denial. The options are pretty much limited to taking the legislative counsel bureau to court.
“I hope this isn’t the Legislature’s view of their responsibilities to the public,” Smith said.
According to the 16-page response from the counsel bureau, “Your request to obtain a copy of the Brooks Report must be denied in its entirety based on those well-established principles of constitutional, statutory parliamentary and common law.”
The letter also says the Legislature is exempt from public-records and other such laws.
It states that the report, developed by a special counsel hired for the investigation of Brooks, was provided to the select committee. The committee made the recommendation for expulsion before its deliberations and then briefly during the hearing itself before the report was collected and secured.
That does not match what members of the select committee said after the hearing. More than one member said they didn’t have prior access to the hundreds of pages of documentation, just a look at it during their hearing. It was taken away after the hearing.
There were complaints that lawmakers were basically kicking Brooks out of the seat he was elected to without providing other members of the body or the public with an explanation justifying that action.
Legislative officials also argue the hearing was legally closed to the public.
While the law allows a meeting to be closed to consider the “character, alleged misconduct, professional competence or physical or mental health of a person,” it mandates deliberations and action be done in public.
Majority Leader William Horne, who chaired the select committee, said that while most of the process was conducted behind closed doors, the meeting was opened after review of the evidence, “during which we deliberated and voted in public.”
That deliberation consisted of taking a motion to expel Brooks, followed by a one- or two-line statement from each of the seven committee members before the vote.
That was followed by a voice vote the next day in the Assembly — with no specific votes by Assembly members recorded — to expel. Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, simply declared that there was a two-thirds majority for expulsion.
The Brooks case started before the session began when he allegedly threatened Kirkpatrick’s life. Since, there have been several incidents of bizarre behavior by Brooks, including Las Vegas arrests on suspicion of domestic violence and resisting arrest and, most recently, his arrest in Barstow, Calif., on more resisting-arrest charges.
He remains in custody in California with bail set at $100,000. Even if he is released there, he won’t go free; his bail on the Las Vegas charges has been revoked.