Nevada PERS renews fight to keep records private
December 6, 2018
The Public Employees Retirement System has again petitioned the Nevada Supreme Court to block the release of retiree payment records.
The petition asks for a rehearing of the high court's October decision ordering PERS to provide names to match the records of how much individual retirees receive each month.
The court five years ago ordered PERS to provide the public with the report it prepares for its actuaries that included the names of retirees and the amount of their retirement checks. PERS sought to get around that by removing the names from that report, arguing that report now no longer exists so the information is once again confidential.
The Nevada Policy Research Institute sued and Carson District Judge James Wilson agreed, ordering PERS to provide the information to NPRI. The institute was posting the data on its Transparent Nevada website for the public to see.
PERS appealed, using the same arguments it has used in the past that there's no law requiring any agency to create a new or customized report for public release.
But the high court agreed with Wilson in a 4-3 decision, ordering the case back to Wilson, "to determine an appropriate way for PERS to comply with the request." The majority said the original report was modified solely to prevent the public from getting the information.
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The PERS board refused to give up, petitioning for a rehearing on the same grounds they raised before: that the ruling mandates creation of a report document, which opens the door to a wave of requests demanding creation of reports by public entities across the state to meet public demands. The petition argues the NPRI opinion issued in October leaves them unable to determine what categories of information in individual retiree files are confidential and which are not.
They also objected to the ruling's directive they search their files for the names that match the Social Security numbers saying that mandates the system create a software program to do the search. And they said the opinion doesn't provide them any way to recoup the cost of doing so.
In response, NPRI argued granting PERS another hearing in the case follows two decisions from the high court ordering PERS to produce the requested information.
"PERS attempts now for a third time to reargue its position in a meritless petition," NPRI lawyers wrote.
"Apparently not even repeated losses before the state Supreme Court will make some government officials comply with the Silver State's public records law," said NPRI Policy Director Robert Fellner.
He said the petition, "improperly seeks to reargue matters already presented to this court." Fellner said the public is entitled to information regarding taxpayer-funded pensions paid to government retirees.