CARSON CITY — The American Civil Liberties Union asked Gov. Jim Gibbons on Monday to order his newly appointed Education Reform Blue Ribbon Task Force to meet in public.
The 28-member committee, co-chaired by casino executive Elaine Wynn and Nevada Higher Education System Chancellor Dan Klaich, met in private Friday at Wynn Resorts.
“First and foremost, as a matter of principle, the business of the Task Force should not be conducted behind closed doors,” said Maggie McLetchie, interim director of the ACLU in Southern Nevada. “The need for openness is perhaps nowhere more vital than in the area of education, unquestionably one of the most debated issues in the state and an issue of deep concern to all Nevadans.”
Daniel Burns, Gibbons communication director, said the Friday meeting was closed at Wynn’s request.
Because the committee receives no public funds and is advisory in nature, Burns argued that it does not have to be open to the public.
Burns contended a “circus” would be created if the group allowed the media and the public into some of the meetings. Some members would try to talk to the TV cameras, and others would be reluctant to say anything because of reporters’ presence, he added.
“If you let the media and the paparazzi in, then you lose control,” Burns said.
But he added some of the task force’s meetings will be open to the public.
The task force was assigned by Gibbons to develop recommendations by May for the state’s application for a $175 million federal Race to the Top education grant. The group was directed to come up with policy recommendations by November on how to improve public education in Nevada.
Gibbons, if re-elected, said he will put the recommendations into the budget he prepares for legislators in 2011.
In the letter, the ACLU said the open meeting law requires “advisory” committees to work in the open, with announced meetings, times, places and an agenda.
The law states any committee that “advises or makes recommendations to any entity which expends or disburses or is supported in whole or party by tax revenue” must operated in the open.
Salaries of Klaich and state Superintendent Keith Rheault, another task force member, are paid by state revenue.
But Burns said an opinion from the attorney general said the meeting can be held in private.