Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2014

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Supreme Court decision allows public access to information from state retirement system

Personal information of workers in the state's retirement system is confidential, but the public has a right to access some reports that may contain data on individuals.

The Nevada Supreme Court's unanimous decision today modified the decision of District Judge Todd Russell of Carson City, who held the individual files were not protected by Nevada law.

The case stems from a Reno Gazette Journal request to the state Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) in 2011 for the names of individuals collecting pensions, their salaries, their hire and retirement dates, and the amount of their pensions. The newspaper said it was investigating the public cost of the retirement system that covers state workers, some local government employees, judges, and police and firemen.

In the decision written by Justice Ron Parraguirre, the court said the public records law "only protects as confidential the individuals' files held by PERS, not all information contained in separate medium that also happens to be contained in individual files."

The court did say other laws may declare these records confidential but that PERS has not identified any law or regulation that would keep confidential the information in the reports.

Parraguirre said Russell "did not abuse his discretion in ordering PERS to provide the requested information to the extent that it is maintained in a medium separate from individual files." The court said, however, that Russell was wrong in ordering PERS "to create new documents or customized reports by searching for and compiling information from individuals‚ files or other records." It said Nevada law allows copying of public records for a fee.

The state's $28.7 billion pension system has about 100,000 active members with an estimated 49,000 retirees.

The Clark County Association of School Administrators and the Retired Public Employees of Nevada both filed motions in the case opposing the request by the newspaper.

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