AG: Lawmakers need to clarify open-meeting law | NevadaAppeal.com
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AG: Lawmakers need to clarify open-meeting law

Attorney General George Chanos said Tuesday lawsuits by his office against the Nevada Tax Commission raise issues the Legislature must resolve.

Under his predecessor, the office sued the tax commission in July, charging it violated the state open meeting law by holding closed-door sessions for two businesses. The first case involved an appeal by Leisure Homes against the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority. The second involved Southern California Edison’s appeal of the Taxation Department’s refusal to refund taxes.

In both cases, the commission met, deliberated and voted behind closed doors.

Tax commission lawyers argue one section of state law mandates tax commission hearings be closed when necessary to protect proprietary business and financial data. The attorney general’s office argues the open meeting law requires those meetings be public.

“There are two competing concerns,” Chanos said. “The right to privacy and the public’s right to know – the need for transparency in government.”

“Ultimately that’s a legislative decision,” he said.

Chanos said he plans to take the issue to the 2007 Legislature.

The two court cases are being handled by Carson District Judge Mike Griffin.

Thomas “Spike” Wilson, representing the tax commission, argues the commission has closed hearings to the public for 20 years based on advice of its deputy attorneys general. He said the law would require criminal penalties against members of the tax commission if they revealed proprietary company information.

Chanos said the Legislature needs to decide, as public policy, what is open to the public and what can be kept confidential in tax commission hearings.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.