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District violating public records law, activist says

A community activist claims the Clark County School District is violating the state’s public records law by denying her requests to inspect e-mail and cell-phone records.

Henderson resident Karen Gray, who is represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, filed a lawsuit Thursday in District Court that seeks an order granting her access to the records.

“I think anyone who cares about public accountability in government would understand that our democracy can only function if we have the information to know what government is up to in the first place,” ACLU attorney Lee Rowland said.

Bill Hoffman, the district’s general counsel, could not be reached Friday for comment on the complaint.

According to the document, Gray first requested permission in November to inspect all e-mails that were distributed through district e-mail systems during the previous year. She also requested permission to inspect any phone records of publicly provided or publicly funded cell phones in the possession of trustees during the previous year.

“Ms. Gray did not request any confidential records or records that contained privileged information, exempting them from public records laws,” according to her lawsuit.

Gray asked for access to e-mails on matters of public concern, the complaint states, “for the purposes of administrative or policy discussions and using this information to propose possible legislation before the 2007 Legislature.”

“Ms. Gray was concerned about this matter after repeated references to e-mails and phone calls by School Board trustees during votes on policies at public meetings of the CCSD Board of Trustees,” according to her lawsuit.

Hoffman responded to Gray’s public records request by informing her that she would have to pay about $4,800 for staff to separate the district’s confidential e-mails from its public e-mails. He later reduced the estimated cost of retrieving the public e-mails to about $4,200.

Gray said she never has requested copies of the records, only access to them.

“They want me to pay to make them accessible to the public, because they didn’t maintain them in an accessible manner,” she said.

Rowland said the district has no written policy regarding the retention of public electronic records.

“Other local governments have developed policies for dealing with public records of all kinds,” he said. “The Clark County School District stands out in its refusal to do so.”

She said the law requires that public records be available for public access at all times.

“This is a School District with a long history of attempting to keep its policy making outside of the public eye,” Rowland said.

According to Gray’s lawsuit, the district’s refusal to grant her access to public records “has caused her irreparable harm, as she was unable to use these public records for the purpose of supporting her legislative proposals before the 2007 Nevada Legislature, which is now out of session.”

 

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