Governor Sisolak previously issued Nevada Emergency Directive 006, which suspended several of Nevada’s Open Meeting Law requirements to permit public bodies to meet and conduct essential business by remote or virtual means throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As Nevada begins to relax social distancing guidelines, many public bodies may be curious about how they can maintain compliance with Nevada’s Open Meeting Law while still conducting essential business through remote mechanisms. This article summarizes Nevada Open Meeting Law and the impact of Directive 006 as public bodies explore how to govern remotely in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
What is Open Meeting Law?
Nevada Open Meetings Law was enacted to ensure that governmental deliberations are conducted openly. The Nevada Legislature’s intent behind the law is found in the statute itself and provides that “[t]he law intends that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.” NRS § 241.010. In short, Nevada’s Open Meeting Law promotes transparency by requiring that “all meetings of public bodies must be open and public.” NRS § 241.020.
Nevada Open Meeting Law applies to all public bodies. A public body is defined as “any administrative, advisory, executive or legislative body of the State or a local government which expends or disburses or is supported in whole or in part by tax revenue…” NRS § 241.015(4). The 2011 Nevada Legislature clarified and expanded the scope of the definition of “public body” to include certain multimember groups appointed by a public officer or public entity under his/her direction and control. Attorney General of Nevada, Nevada Open Meeting Law Manual § 2.10 (20th Ed. 2016). Some examples of public bodies include the Nevada Interscholastic Association, Nevada Board of Agriculture, and the Nevada Board of Dental Examiners. Id. § 2.08.
However, not all entities or groups are subject to the Nevada Open Meeting Law. For example, a solitary person, such as the Governor, acting in his/her official executive capacity, cannot be a “public body.” Id. § 2.02. Any commission, committee, or board appointed by the Governor with at least two members who are not employees of the State Executive Department are not defined as a public body and subject to the Open Meeting Law. Id. It should also be noted that, along with the legislature’s proceedings, judicial proceedings are also exempt from the Open Meeting Law requirements. NRS § 241.016(2)(b).
Summary of Changes to Nevada Open Meeting Law
Given the general requirement for public body meetings to be open and accessible to the public, Governor Sisolak relaxed some of Nevada’s Open Meeting Law requirements through Nevada Emergency Directive 006. Namely, directive 006 suspends several Open Meeting Law requirements relating to physical locations, including the following:
- Designate a physical location for the meeting where members of the public may attend and participate. See Nevada Emergency Directive 006.
- Post public notice agendas at physical locations within the State of Nevada as required by NRS § 241.020(4). Id.
- Make physical locations available for the public to receive supporting material for the public meeting as required by NRS § 241.020(3)(c). Id.
However, when a public body holds a meeting virtually or telephonically, the public body must ensure that any party required to appear before it shall be able to do so through remote means. Id. Additionally, the public body must provide a means for the public to comment through telephone or email. Id.
Although the public notice agenda for a meeting need not be posted at a physical location within the State of Nevada, public bodies are still required to post the public notice agenda on Nevada’s notice website and the public bodies website as required by NRS § 241.020(4)(b)-(c).
Considering the multitude of challenges facing communities by the spread of COVID-19 in Nevada, many governing bodies will find the need to meet electronically to conduct business, implement policies, and provide relief to citizens. Public bodies should be aware of how the requirements of Nevada Open Meeting Laws and Nevada’s Emergency Directives apply to remote meetings and be prepared to adapt their procedures accordingly, as summarized in this article.
About this article
This article was originally published in the “Administrative” issue of Communiqué, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association, (November 2020). See https://clarkcountybar.org/about/member-benefits/communique-2020/communique-november-2020/.
© 2020 Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. Editorial policy available upon request.
About the author:
Caleb L. Green is a William S. Boyd School of Law graduate, an intellectual property attorney at Dickinson Wright PLLC, and the Racial Justice Chair of the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Bar Association.