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PERS board supports disclosing retiree names

CARSON CITY — The board of Nevada’s Public Employees Retirement System voted Thursday to give its support to a bill that required the disclosure of retiree names. PERS chair Mark Vincent even said he sees “value” to the public in releasing the names, if directed to do so by the Legislature.

The state Senate, however, has a proposal up for vote Friday that would go in the opposite direction. I’ve told you before about Senate Bill 384, sponsored by Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks. It would declare retiree names confidential, while allowing the public to view payout information like yearly pension amount, years of service and last employer. Instead of a name, SB384 would mandate that PERS create and release a unique identifier for each retiree.

On Thursday, at its monthly board meeting, Tina Leiss, PERS executive officer, described the original bill, which would have mandated the release of retiree names, and the amended bill, which would exempt retiree names, and asked for the board to take an official position supporting both versions of the bill.

“Our recommendation to you is the board take a position of support on SB384, as it was originally introduced or as it was amended,” said Leiss. “Because as I said, we’re looking for the clarity. We’re not necessarily looking for the specific types of information. That’s up to the Legislature.”

“Personally, and obviously, it’s been amended out, but I’m not sure I had a big issue about the names,” said Vincent. “I just had an issue with defining what is public and what isn’t.”

The board then voted 7-0 to approve the motion supporting both versions of the bill.

Since PERS has been engaged in legal battles since 2011, including a current court fight with my former employer, the Nevada Policy Research Institute, about releasing names with payout information, I was pleasantly shocked by the board’s support of releasing retiree names. Unfortunately, Ratti doesn’t feel the same.

“I still feel pretty strongly that having the names is not necessary,” Ratti said when I asked her about the PERS vote and Vincent’s comments. Ratti expressed her concern that criminals would target older retirees if they obtained names with payout information. Since retiree names and payouts are currently available on TransparentNevada.com, I asked her if she has an example of that happening.

“I think that’s just common sense,” she said.

While I don’t think that’s enough to outweigh the public’s right to know, how the Senate feels is still up in the air. The vote likely hinges on transparency champion Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, and Sen. Patricia Farley, I-Las Vegas.

But if PERS’ board is on record supporting a proposal that would release retiree names, this should be easy for all lawmakers. Either amend SB384 to include names or vote it down.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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