State education panel won’t follow open meeting law
(AP) – The co-chairs of Gov. Jim Gibbons’ new Blue Ribbon Education Reform Task Force have decided not to follow the state’s open meeting law, and one member has criticized the move.
State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said she won’t attend the panel’s meetings unless co-chairs Dan Klaich and Elaine Wynn reverse their decision.
“It never dawned on me that they would decide not to follow the open meeting law,” Cegavske told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I will stay a member if they follow the open meeting law, but I will not attend meetings in which they don’t.”
On Thursday, Klaich said the public could attend the meetings, but did not mention the panel would not follow the open meeting law.
That law requires public bodies to post notices in public places at least three working days in advance of meetings, prepare agendas that show the subjects that will be discussed and provide time for citizens to speak.
Wynn said she and Klaich acted on the advice of the governor’s office.
“We have been advised by the governor’s office that the blue ribbon task force is not subject to the requirements of the open meeting law,” Wynn said.
She declined comment on Cegavske’s position.
American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Maggie McLetchie praised Klaich when he announced the meetings would be conducted in public, but changed her tune Friday.
“We are very disappointed to now learn the task force is only taking a half step toward openness,” she said.
McLetchie pointed out the open law requirements ensure the public can participate in the meetings.
“If members of the public do not know about the meeting, how are they supposed to attend?” she asked.
Cegavske said some members are concerned that they won’t be able to work as rapidly if they follow the open meeting law.
Gibbons, in a letter Friday to McLetchie, refused to require the task force to follow the open meeting law.
He said his decision was based on opinions by the Nevada Attorney General’s Office that the task force was not a public body because no public money is being spent. Members are responsible for their own costs. Several members, including higher education system Chancellor Klaich, are paid state salaries.
The 29-member panel has been charged with coordinating the state’s application for federal grant money and recommending overall reforms.
It plans to meet April 9 in Las Vegas and April 23 in Reno.