Meeting complaint against Schwartz

Reno personal property appraiser Joyce Newman has filed an open meeting complaint over state Treasurer Dan Schwartz’s handling of the adoption of regulations for the new state program that pays parents to take their children out of public school. Schwartz administers the program.

Newman said she signed up to receive notices of meeting agendas but that the delivery of them was spotty.

“When I became aware by checking the treasurer’s website that future hearings had been scheduled, I contacted the treasurer’s office to make sure I was still on the email distribution list,” she said in a prepared statement. “I received no response and received no more notices, including that for the October 20 ‘adoption hearing’ or for the hearing originally scheduled to adopt regulations on November 23. Additionally, the notice I received for the August 21 workshop was emailed on August 20—one day prior to the workshop. The Nevada Administrative Procedures Act NRS 233b.061(2) requires workshop notices to be sent ‘not less than 15 days before the workshop … to each person who has requested to be placed on a mailing list.’ ”

• In related news, the public was given no notice of Assembly Concurrent Resolution 1 at this month’s special session of the Nevada Legislature. The lawmakers have always exempted themselves from the open meeting law. ACR 1 is a nonbinding measure that Republicans claim provides guidance on their legislative intent in creating the school grants program at the regular session of the legislature last May. An examination of legislative records indicates that ACR 1 was introduced in the Senate no earlier than 3:12 p.m. on Dec. 19 and was given final approval in the Assembly at 3:49 p.m. As a result of that 37-minute sprint, the public was given no opportunity to testify on the measure in legislative hearings. None were held. In addition, it was approved by the Senate on a voice vote, so no roll call is available to the public.

• Additionally, the law firm of Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison has added another lawsuit to the court load surrounding the new school grants program—this one to seek rapid court action on the earlier suits.

Two earlier lawsuits were filed to challenge the new law, one by a parents group, the other by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

“Families across Nevada right now are planning their children’s educational future and for thousands of households, the plan includes access to ESAs [education savings accounts],” Hutchison said in a prepared statement when the suit was filed on Dec. 22.

“On behalf of these families, we will seek an expedited decision to meet the timeline set forth by the law and, most importantly, to provide greater certainty for our students, parents, educators, and schools.”

But apparently signals got crossed in GOP ranks.

Republican Hutchison’s action prompted Republican Schwartz to freak out and issue his own statement: “The State Treasurer’s Office is baffled by Lt. Governor Hutchison’s recent legal maneuvers. We have complete confidence in Attorney General [Adam] Laxalt’s handling of the two cases already filed. Mr. Hutchison’s lawsuit amounts to little more than a side track to nowhere. Hoping to bypass the current cases, the Lieutenant Governor could well jeopardize the attorney general’s defense of Nevada’s ESA program, endangering very real benefits for the children and parents of Nevada.” (Hutchison’s statement made no reference to Laxalt.)

Hutchison said his action sought “expedited” action on the initial two lawsuits, while Schwartz said Hutchison is seeking to “bypass” those lawsuits.

Schwartz may have been distressed by being named as a defendant in the Hutchison suit—he mentioned it in his news release—though it is routine for administrators of programs to be named when programs are sued.

• Finally, Treasurer Schwartz—who has accelerated the school grants program at every opportunity—said last week he may hold a “summit” meeting next spring on how to retool the program at the 2017 Nevada Legislature.