Our Opinion: Brooks report should be public knowledge
April 4, 2013
The expulsion of Assemblyman Steven Brooks was a historic moment in Nevada, and it didn't come without controversy.
Brooks' expulsion came after weeks of investigation into whether the North Las Vegas Democrat was fit to serve.
Las Vegas attorney Mark Ferrario, who was hired as the independent counsel for the special legislative panel selected to review Brooks' case, put together more than 900 pages of supporting material into Brooks' troubles.
Ferrario presented that material to the seven-member Assembly commission Tuesday night — and that's where the trouble started. News media outlets from all across the state gathered at the Carson City Courthouse to hear the commission debate whether an elected public official was fit to serve, and the media was shut out.
The commission, citing the Nevada Constitution, kicked reporters out of the hearing, spitting in the face of open government.
Leaders said the Constitution allows meetings "held to consider the character, professional competence or mental health of one of its members" to be closed to the public.
The lack of transparency about a public official is concerning. The fact that a report was reviewed by a group of elected officials behind closed doors, for close to three hours, without any type of public discussion is disheartening.
If a Nevada lawmaker is similarly expelled in, say, 75 years, we want to help ensure people reading about it then know the circumstances surrounding the first such incident back in 2013. That's our job; we're the newspaper of record for Carson City. More important, we want you, our readers, to know the circumstances now.
That's why the Appeal and other news media outlets are fighting to have the report released.
Attorney Donald Campbell, who filed a two-page open-records request on behalf of 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."
The Appeal understands that portions of this report directly related to Brooks' medical history will not be released due to privacy laws. However, without this report, the same people who voted Brooks into office will never know whether he received a fair vote on his expulsion.
Members of the Nevada Assembly who weren't part of the special panel voted to remove Brooks from office without ever being given all the information needed to formulate an opinion, causing us to wonder how these lawmakers can justify voting on something they were not fully educated on.
The Appeal is hopeful the Brooks report will be released soon, allowing the public to fully understand why he was removed from office.
It is the right thing for our elected officials to do for the people who voted them into office.