Review of Comstock Mines rezoning ordered
The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered a Lyon County District Court to review how the county commission handled the rezoning that approved industrial development by Comstock Mining.
The commission first rejected the rezoning application but, at a second meeting, approved it.
The Comstock Residents Association sued, challenging the zoning change, charging commissioners and county officials used cellphones and emails to discuss the issue outside of public scrutiny. They asked the district court to provide phone records, emails and cell communications but that motion was denied. The county argued those phone numbers and email addresses were personal and not paid for by the county, but conceded they were used to conduct county business.
In an opinion by Justice Michael Cherry, the high court disagreed and ordered the district court to determine whether the requested phone and email records involved the “provision of a public service.”
The opinion states state statute mandates transparency and public access to information regarding governmental activities unless the governmental entity can show by a preponderance of evidence the records are either confidential by statute or the balance of interest weighs clearly in favor of confidentiality.
Lyon County argued the law mandating public records be open to inspection applies only to records maintained in government offices.
But the high court ruled that statute doesn’t say only records held in government offices, that it includes all records concerning the provision of public service.
All seven members of the court agreed the Lyon County argument also contradicts their previous decisions where the production of public records held by private parties has been compelled.
They also wrote those records held by members of the county commission are available because those commissioners constitute governmental entities themselves.