The Clark County School District has long been one of the state’s most aggressive scofflaws when it comes to Nevada’s public records law. And once again, the taxpayers must pay the price.
On Thursday, the Nevada Supreme Court unanimously brushed aside the district’s latest effort to conceal documents from the public. The justices ruled that reports school district officials compiled regarding the behavior of Trustee Kevin Child must be made available for scrutiny.
Mr. Child, who is currently running for re-election, was the subject of various harassment allegations made by district employees. Former Superintendent Pat Skorkowsy even went so far as to ban him from district campuses. But after district officials conducted an investigation into the situation, they sat on the findings and refused to release the details. Among other arguments, the district claimed its own regulations allowing secrecy overrode state law and that it was attempting to protect those who had complained.
But the court, recognizing the importance of transparency and accountability, wasn’t buying that nonsense.
“Ascribing a force to such regulations that limits the (Nevada Public Records Act),” the opinion noted, “would create an opportunity for government organizations to make an end-run around the NPRA by drafting internal regulations that render documents confidential by law.”
The court did rule the district could redact the names of students, teachers, support staff, alleged harassment victims or other witnesses.
The district’s intransigence will end up costing taxpayers thousands in legal fees. It’s yet another reason why the law needs to be strengthened to include penalties for individuals and agencies that flout the principles of openness that form the foundation of a healthy democratic republic.
Superintendent Jesus Jara should order the documents be released immediately. The notion that the district is protecting its own employees is ludicrous. If there is a legitimate case against Mr. Child, concealing the reports only makes it easier for him to prevail at the polls and to continue his behavior. And if the probe was a whitewash, voters deserve to know that, too, as a matter of fairness.
Indeed, Mr. Child — who has sued the district over the allegations, arguing they were contrived in response to his forceful questioning about the budget — told the Review-Journal that he welcomes the court decision.
The state high court has ruled. There must be no more obfuscation, excuses and dawdling. Redact the names and release the records. Now.