State attorney general finds secret ethics opinions do not violate open meetings law
NEVADA — Las Vegas City Council representatives may receive confidential ethics opinions from a local ethics committee, the state attorney general said in late May.
The closed-door ethics committee proceedings do not violate Nevada’s open meetings law, the attorney general opinion said.
“The ethics provision and the open meeting law provision can be harmonized because they deal with two distinct types of proceedings,” the opinion said.
Ethics opinions requested by public officials are not the same as investigations about public officers’ behavior, the attorney general said.
The attorney general found that the law enabling the establishment of local ethics committees was enacted for the purpose of providing privacy for the elected public officials seeking ethics opinions.
Closed proceedings would be impermissible when considering an elected person’s character, professional competence, alleged misconduct, or physical or mental health.
The scope of confidentiality includes the public officer’s request for an ethics opinion, the content of the opinion and any motion of the ethics committee relating to the opinion.
A public official could no longer invoke confidentiality regarding the opinion if the official failed to follow the advice or voluntarily disclosed the content of the opinion.
(Nev. Att’y Gen. Op. 94-10)