Las Vegas Sun

March 23, 2019

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Supreme Court to hear arguments over governor’s e-mails

High court to decide whether to overturn judge that ruled in Gov. Jim Gibbon’s favor

Gibbons

Cathleen Allison / Nevada Appeal / File photo

Gov. Jim Gibbons demonstrates how he text messages with his thumbs in a meeting in summer 2008 with the Nevada press corps.

Sun Coverage

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons believes that traffic through his state-issued e-mail account is not public.

And he maintains that he should not be required to reveal a list of the names, dates and a brief subject of these e-mail messages.

But the Reno Newspapers says this traffic on the state-issue e-mail account is subject to the Nevada’s Open Records law.

The Nevada Supreme Court hears arguments Monday whether to overturn the decision of District Judge Todd Russell who sided with the governor.

Scott A. Glogovac, attorney for the Reno Gazette-Journal, says the decision by Judge Russell means “nothing needs to be provided to the citizen” and the ruling must be reversed.

In June 2008, Anjeanette Damon, the political reporter for the Gazette Journal, submitted a request to the governor’s office to make public the e-mail communications between Gibbons and 10 persons for the period before January and June in 2008.

Gibbons refused. And Damon then asked that a list be supplied of the names, dates and content of the e-mail messages. The governor’s office refused.

The newspaper filed suit. Judge Russell reviewed the 110 e-mail messages in his office. He said six could be released but the rest could not. And he rejected the request for the governor to provide the names, dates and a brief description of the content.

The request included messages between the governor and Kathy Karrasch, who accompanied Gibbons to the recent governors’ conference in Washington D.C. And the newspaper wanted to see the messages between Gibbons and Dawn Gibbons, who are being divorced.

James Spencer, chief of staff for the state Attorney General’s Office, is representing Gibbons and he says an e-mail kept on a state computer “which is personal or which does not facilitate public access to vital governmental activities is not a ‘public record’ within the meaning of the law.”

In his pre-hearing brief, Spencer the “Public Records Act only applies to public records. Materials that are personal in nature, or that do not concern the public business are not subject to a public records request.”

But Scott Glogovac, the attorney representing the newspaper, says it was wrongfully denied a chance to sit in with the judge in examining whether these messages were confidential or privileged.

Glogovac says, “Due process in a public records lawsuit must be afforded to the citizen who filed the action, such that the citizen can submit meaningful arguments to the court regarding the accessibility of the records in question.”

The citizen, says Glogovac, must be provided a log of the messages to determine if the trafficking has been properly denied by the judge.

He argues it was “clear error” for Judge Russell to rule the e-mails were confidential.

Glogovac is asking the Supreme Court to send the case back to Judge Russell and ordering the judge to provide the newspaper with an index of the e-mail traffic.

Besides asking for the e-mail messages involving Karrasch and Dawn Gibbons, the newspaper requested any message traffic between the governor and Leslie Durant, Warren Trepp, Howard Weiss, Joe Martin, Perry DiLoreto, Diane Cornwall and Mike Dayton.

The governor’s office says there were no e-mail communications with Karrasch, Durant, Trepp, Weiss and Joe Martin. But the newspaper has no way of verifying that since it cannot get a log of the e-mail trafficking.

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