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Bill would exempt Parole Board from state open meeting law

CARSON CITY — A Parole Board official asked a Senate committee Monday to pass a bill allowing the board to continue to operate without having to follow the state’s open meeting law in all aspects of its review of inmate cases.

Senate Bill 496 would make it clear that the Parole Board could continue to meet in private to deliberate on who should get a parole. Hearings could be held in absentia. And just like the current practice, victims or their families would be allowed to testify in private at hearings, if they so choose.

The bill is partially the result of a 2006 Nevada Supreme Court decision that said the Parole Board must follow the open meeting law, which mandates that local and state governmental bodies conduct the public’s business in public. That high court decision is on hold until the entire court rules on the issue in the next several months.

Senate Bill 496 was considered by the Senate Government Affairs Committee, but no action was taken.

The bill is in contrast to an Assembly bill that would require the Parole Board to follow the open meeting law in all respects. Assembly Bill 61 would require public deliberations on cases and the right of an inmate to be present at a parole hearing and to have representation.

The board does notice its meetings and the public is allowed to attend. Decisions are also made public but the deliberations are done in private.

David Smith, executive secretary to the Parole Board, told legislators that about one-third of inmate paroles are done in absentia, which would not be allowed under the Assembly measure.

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