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What are they hiding? Rural school district withholds employment, salary information

Government employee salaries are routinely released under public records requests, but Lyon County School District refused to provide the information earlier this year to a former employee who requested it.

Hope Loudon requested public information in March about her former colleagues — including their salaries, job titles and hire dates. Instead of turning the information over, a law firm representing the district denied the request.

Instead of turning the information over, a law firm representing the district denied the request.

Loudon said she previously requested and received pay data from the Nevada System of Higher Education, so the denial was disappointing.

Reno-based law firm Maupin, Cox & LeGoy contends that administrative rules for state agencies make certain employee information private, including pay. But the Nevada Supreme Court ruled just the opposite in 2018, said Las Vegas Review-Journal Chief Legal Officer Benjamin Lipman.

“If the (Nevada Administrative Code) could be used to circumvent the public records act, the executive branch could undermine that important transparency law,” Lipman said.

The law firm directed Loudon to retrieve school district salary information from TransparentNevada.com, a privately operated online database.

The nonprofit Nevada Policy Research Institute, which runs the website, sources its information from public record requests.

The school district also refused to provide other records that Loudon requested after the district did not keep her on during her probationary period in February 2022.

Text messages between her boss and a human resources administrator from the days leading up to and following her termination were deemed confidential because the conversation happened on the employees’ personal cellphones.

However, in 2018, the state Supreme Court ruled that government workers’ personal devices are not exempt from Nevada’s public records laws.

“The Nevada Supreme Court has held that public employees cannot circumvent the (Nevada Public Records Act) by conducting public business on their private phones,” Lipman said. “The Court, as well as the Legislature, has further made clear that even if some information on a public record can be kept confidential, that information should be redacted, but the remainder of the record must be produced in response to a request.”

The school district’s denial letter did not address several other records that Loudon requested.

The agency also did not provide specific legal reasoning for rejecting her requests, a requirement under state law.

Loudon gave up trying to get the records after she realized that litigation might be her only option to get the information.

“This puts an expensive and exhausting burden on citizens seeking basic legal compliance and transparency from our own state institutions and government,” she said. “Enforcement of basic transparency laws should not be my job, or require me and other concerned citizens to sue the state at our own expense.”

The school district and Maupin, Cox & LeGoy did not respond to the Review-Journal’s questions about the denied records.

The “What Are They Hiding?” column was created to educate Nevadans about transparency laws, inform readers about Review-Journal coverage being stymied by bureaucracies, and shame public officials into being open with the hardworking people who pay all of government’s bills. Were you wrongly denied access to public records? Share your story with us at whataretheyhiding@reviewjournal.com.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated where Hope Loudon resided when she made her record request. She was living in Mexico.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on X.

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