Quasi-open meetings

Nevada resident Angel DeFazio was arrested on Oct. 26 for shooting footage in a meeting of the state Public Utilities Commission, something that journalists do all the time without penalty or interference.

The arrest was made at the behest of Commissioner David Noble by a Las Vegas Metro police officer whose name plate read “M. Kinney.” The officer declined to provide a first name, but it is likely Michael. (In 2006, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court that citizens must identify themselves to police, but it apparently works in only one direction.)

No specific charge was initially given that DeFazio allegedly violated, but officials with the PUC said it was requested because she refused to leave the hearing room after she “disrupted” the meeting. However, it appears it was Noble who disrupted the meeting. He called the meeting to a halt and confronted DeFazio when she began taping at the start. He kept the meeting out of session for four hours. The officer seems to have accepted at face value the account of people with titles about what happened.

DeFazio was later charged with trespassing.

PUC lawyer Carolyn Tanner said the commission is a quasi-judicial body and therefore the Nevada's open meeting law does not apply. However, neither the open meeting law, the Nevada Open Meeting Handbook, or any court rulings make reference to exceptions for the PUC.

There are numerous types of quasi-judicial proceedings in Nevada, such as personnel hearings, parole and probation hearings, and gambling regulation meetings. Most have normally been treated as subject to the open meeting law and the statutes contain various hints that state legislators intended such. In 2011, Assembly Bill 59—sponsored by the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs—made those hints explicit, applying the open meeting law to all quasi-judicial proceedings except those of the Board of Parole Commissioners, and then only for certain functions. Nevada Revised Statutes 213, dealing with parole and probation, reads in part, “All meetings are quasi-judicial and must be open to the public.”