ELKO, Nev. (AP) - The Elko County Commission violated the state’s open meeting law by giving improper notice involving an agenda item last fall and should change the way it does business, the Nevada attorney general’s office said in a legal opinion.
Acting on a complaint by a radio station, senior deputy attorney general George H. Taylor concluded the commissioners failed to adequately describe the information they intended to present on Oct. 23 concerning law enforcement at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
“We find a violation of the law’s requirement that all agenda items provide ‘clear and complete’ notice of topics to be discussed,” Taylor wrote in the opinion dated Feb. 21.
Lori Gilbert, news director for KELK-KNEV which first reported the ruling, said she filed the complaint out of frustration with the lack of specificity in commission agendas.
BLM Elko District Manager Jill Silvey said she was caught off guard at the October meeting when Commissioner Grant Gerber invited a resident to approach the panel with complaints about potential misconduct by agency officers.
Based on the agenda and previous discussions, Silvey said she had prepared to address inconveniences faced by residents who are ticketed on BLM land in Elko County then have to travel nearly 300 miles to federal court in Reno to fight a citation.
The agenda had no reference to specific complaints or allegations of misconduct by any specific BLM rangers, according to the Elko Daily Free Press (https://tinyurl.com/p9vq23c).
Silvey said she was unprepared to address concerns raised by Brad Nelson, who claims he was wrongly ticketed last year for cutting wood in a federal wilderness study area.
Nelson, who came equipped with a recorded phone message and other evidence, said he’d been mistreated by a BLM ranger who tried to talk him out of fighting the ticket and later dropped the charge.
Silvey said that prior to the meeting she asked Gerber for more specific information about the agenda item, but he didn’t mention Nelson or his concerns.
According to information the county provided to the attorney general, Gerber handed a list of questions to fellow commissioners that he encouraged them to ask Nelson, including, “Was the BLM agent intimidating?”
Taylor warned the commission in his opinion to include on its agendas all topics it plans to address that are of significant importance to the public, such as law enforcement issues. He said no further action is needed because no vote was taken.
Kristin McQueary, chief civil deputy district attorney, argued “the agenda was as ‘clear and complete’ as it could have been under the circumstances.” She said it’s impossible to anticipate everything that could arise during public discussion.
All but one commissioner sent a letter to the attorney general’s office in opposition to the complaint. Commissioner Jeff Williams believes the county didn’t violate the letter of the law, but to a large degree violated its intent.
Information from: Elko Daily Free Press, https://www.elkodaily.com
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