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Private advisory meetings did not violate open-meetings law

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Private advisory meetings did not violate open-meetings law

  • The state Supreme Court found no evidence that secret meetings with Redevelopment Agency staff and board members were held to take action prior to a public meeting and reversed the decision of a lower court.

March 18, 2003 — The Nevada Supreme Court ruled Friday that back-to-back staff meetings attended by fewer than a quorum of a public body did not violate the state’s open-meetings law. The decision reversed a Dec. 21, 1999, district court ruling.

“There is no substantial evidence in the record that Agency members or Agency staff met or gathered privately for the purpose of taking a action on, or collectively discussing, a matter of public business,” the Supreme Court wrote in its decision.

The meetings in question were held with agency board members and staff regarding whether a nearly 50-year-old building, the Mapes Hotel, should be demolished. In 1999 a group of citizens and two nonprofit preservation organizations — the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Truckee Meadows Heritage Trust — filed a complaint in district court against the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Reno over the meetings.

The district court found the agency in violation of the meetings law, but did not void the actions taken by the agency at a Sept. 13, 1999, public meeting, which followed at least 18 private briefings. Agency members said they made their final decision to demolish the hotel at the public meeting. The hotel was imploded in January 2000.

As part of his Dec. 21, 1999, ruling against the agency, district court Judge James Hardesty also prohibited the agency from holding back-to-back sessions between two or more members.

In 2001, the state legislature specifically banned “serial meetings.”

(Dewey v. Redevelopment Agency of Reno) JL

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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