- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The conservative magazine National Review and the Las Vegas Review-Journal are suing for records on employees of the state health exchange, saying the public needs to know whether the workers handling personal information - including Social Security numbers - have criminal backgrounds.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Carson City against the Nevada Division of Insurance, seeks background information on 11 current or former workers who National Review reporter Jill Melchior believes may have criminal convictions. The division has previously denied the requests, saying the information is confidential.

The workers are “navigators” who help enroll people in the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, which is part of the new health care law.

“Information regarding the hiring of these individuals is of great concern to the public,” the lawsuit says, “as convicted criminals in possession of confidential and personal information of prospective participants in the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange pose a significant threat to the privacy and safety of said participants.

“In addition, substantial amounts of taxpayer funds are involved in the creation and operation of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange including the employment of Navigators,” it says.

Officials with the division didn’t immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

Melchior first requested background on the navigators in late November, according to the suit, but public information officer Jake Sunderland refused and “instead became extremely aggravated and, in fact, hung up the telephone on Ms. Melchior.”

The lawsuit contends the information is public. Letters to Melchior from the division’s lawyer, Amy Parks, indicate the department doesn’t have public records to provide on the subject.

Parks declined to provide information about what the background checks entail, saying it wasn’t a proper public records request, according to documents attached to the lawsuit.