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Public Employees' Retirement System of Nevada v. Reno Newspapers Inc.

Supreme Court of Nevada

November 14, 2013

PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF NEVADA, A Public Agency, Appellant,
v.
RENO NEWSPAPERS, INC., Respondent.

Page 222

Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, and Kimberly Okezie, Deputy Attorney General, Carson City; Woodburn & Wedge and W. Chris Wicker and Joshua M. Woodbury, Reno, for Appellant.

Burton Bartlett & Glogovac, Ltd., and Scott A. Glogovac and David S. McElroy, Reno, for Respondent.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, and Adam P. Segal and Bryce C. Loveland, Las Vegas, for Amicus Curiae Clark County Association of School Administrators.

Smith Law Firm and James C. Smith, Reno, for Amicus Curiae Retired Public Employees of Nevada.

BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.

OPINION

PARRAGUIRRE, J.:

In this appeal, we discuss the applicability of Nevada's Public Records Act (the Act) to information stored in the individual files of retired employees that are maintained by appellant Public Employees' Retirement System of Nevada (PERS). Specifically, we address the scope of confidentiality set forth in NRS 286.110(3), which states that " [t]he official correspondence and records, other than the files of individual members or retired employees, ... are public records and are available for public inspection." (Emphasis added.).

Although we conclude that the individual files have been declared confidential by statute and are thereby exempt from requests pursuant to the Act, other reports that PERS generates based on information contained in the files are not similarly protected by NRS 286.110(3). However, information contained in such other reports may still be declared confidential, privileged, or protected by other statutes, rules, or caselaw, and therefore not subject to disclosure under the Act. Accordingly, we affirm in part and vacate in part the district court's order.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In 2011, respondent Reno Newspapers, Inc., doing business as the Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ), submitted a public records request to PERS seeking the following pension information: the names of all individuals who are collecting pensions, the names of their government employers, their salaries, their hire and retirement dates, and the amounts of their pension payments. RGJ's request originated as part of an investigation concerning government expenditures and the public cost of retired government employee pensions. PERS denied RGJ's request, asserting that the information was confidential pursuant to NRS 286.110(3), which states that the files of individual retired employees are not public records, and NRS 286.117, which requires a personal waiver from the member to review and copy such records.

Page 223

RGJ filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in district court seeking the requested information, which it asserted is not confidential because it is generated from public records and easily accessible through an electronic search of the PERS system. PERS opposed the petition, arguing that it strictly maintains the requested information as confidential and that the privacy interests involved outweigh the public's interest in disclosure.[1] For support, PERS submitted a declaration from its executive officer explaining that all information related to the individual files is maintained as confidential but that PERS provides an annual valuation of its system in aggregate form as a public record.

The district court granted RGJ's petition, concluding that neither NRS 286.110(3) nor NRS 286.117 declared the requested information confidential and that privacy concerns did not clearly outweigh the public's right to disclosure. The district court ordered PERS to produce a report for RGJ containing the requested information, subject to appropriate fees under NRS 239.052 and so long as the home addresses and ...


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