Suit nixed to make budget-cut suggestions public | NevadaAppeal.com

Suit nixed to make budget-cut suggestions public

The attempt to force the state budget office to release agency recommendations on where to cut state budgets was rejected by Carson District Judge Todd Russell on Tuesday.

Russell ruled from the bench following a two hour hearing in which Scott Glogovac, representing the Reno Gazette-Journal, argued the records are not covered by any statute permitting confidentiality.

He also argued that Gov. Jim Gibbons surrendered any claim those recommendations were not final but part of the deliberative process when he said Friday he was leaving it to the agencies to decide where and how much to cut.

“Now he can make no pretense this can interfere with the deliberative process,” Glogovac told the court.

But Russell said despite that statement by Gibbons, he agrees with Director of Administration Andrew Clinger that the decision-making process hasn’t been surrendered to the agencies by Gibbons.

“No decisions have been made so the deliberative process is still going on,” the judge said.

He ruled those documents detailing both 5 percent and 8 percent cut recommendations, are still “pre-decisional.”

He agreed confidentiality is necessary to promote a “frank exchange of opinions” between agency heads and the governor without fear of what would happen if those recommendations were later disclosed.

Developing a budget or cutting a budget, he said, “is probably one of the most sensitive and important functions a governor performs.”

Russell ruled that the governor has the right to have confidential communication with his directors and staff and that the agency recommendations on where and how to cut the state budget fit within that privilege.

A spokesman for the Gazette-Journal said no decision has been made on whether to appeal the ruling. But, if budget cuts are announced in the first week or so of January, an appeal would probably be rendered moot.

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