- Associated Press - Friday, October 30, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - In an opinion that’s drawing rave reviews from an Omaha legislator, the Nebraska attorney general’s office said the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority in Omaha should follow the state’s open meeting and open records laws.

The opinion released Thursday said the authority should be considered a branch of the Omaha city government and thus subject to government transparency laws, the Omaha World-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1Mm3BwW ).

Authority officials have resisted calls for complete openness, saying that would hamper the authority in its competition with other arenas and convention centers.

The authority “should now do what it should have been doing all the time,” said state Sen. Ernie Chambers, who had requested that the office of Attorney General Doug Peterson issue an opinion. The opinion is not legally binding and can be taken to district court for a ruling.

Authority officials said they’re discussing it with their lawyer and declined to comment.

In March 2014 a legislative committee killed a bill co-sponsored by Chambers that would have applied the so-called Sunshine Law requirements to the authority.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert also has been pushing the authority - which oversees the Century Link Center and TD Ameritrade Park - for more openness, seeking budget information and vendor contracts.

“The fact is that (the authority) was created by government. It was put on the ballot and was voted on by the people,” Stothert said.

The authority adopted a new policy in the spring that took steps toward openness, but also detailed that it wouldn’t provide any information that could “impair its ability to compete in the market.”

The attorney general’s office concluded in previous opinions that the authority was not required to follow the transparency laws. But the new opinion cited recent guidance from the Nebraska Supreme Court, which in a ruling outlined a four-part test for whether entities such as the authority are public agencies. The new opinion said the authority qualifies as a public agency for all four factors.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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