Regents take step toward openness
August 24, 2004
Eight members of the Board of Regents understood the message being sent by Attorney General Brian Sandoval and their own chancellor, Jim Rogers, when they voted to settle a battle over the state’s open-meeting law.
The message: Regents want to be open and responsive to the public, and they’re willing to take steps to improve.
The issue came to a head over secret meetings to demote the president of the Community College of Southern Nevada and his chief legislative lobbyist. There have been other, more recent questions about the university system’s willingness to provide public information.
Rogers summed it up aptly when he said: “What the media sees and what the public sees is that we have a policy that says we will not be open unless there is a statute requiring we be open. We need to settle the case, then develop a set of regulations consistent with the open-meeting law.”
Some regents, however, continue to resist, including Tom Kirkpatrick, who doesn’t believe there has been any violations and who said the state’s open meetings law isn’t clear.
Yes, the law could be improved. But the spirit of it remains intact: “All public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.”
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One of the ways it can be improved is to create some clear consequences for board members who violate the law. We trust the 2005 Legislature will address that matter, prompted in large part by the actions of the regents.
As it stands, however, some boards operate more comfortably behind closed doors. They fear scrutiny more than they respect public debate. The Board of Regents had created the perception they were the former, and now they have taken the first step toward restoring confidence they can become the latter.