Nevada’s Public Records Law

“The purpose of this chapter is to foster democratic principles by providing members of the public with access to inspect and copy public books and records to the extent permitted by law; The provisions of this chapter must be construed liberally to carry out this important purpose; Any exemption, exception or balancing of interests which limits or restricts access to public books and records by members of the public must be construed narrowly.” NRS 239.001

“Unless otherwise declared by law to be confidential, all public books and public records of a governmental entity must be open at all times during office hours to inspection by any person, and may be fully copied or an abstract or memorandum may be prepared from those public books and public records.” NRS 239.010


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A Right to Know

Nevadans have a right to access public information without paying exorbitant fees or filing expensive lawsuits — with no guarantee they’ll recover their legal fees.

That’s why a coalition of bipartisan groups — including media organizations, public watchdogs, civil liberty groups and even individuals — have come together to ask Nevada lawmakers to protect and strengthen the public’s right to know.

A mother with a disabled son requested records to find out how he was being treated by authorities. The agency’s refusal to share the information with her left her powerless to protect her son from mistreatment.

What problems do citizens run into?

High fees No penalty Lack of cooperation 
Some agencies demand exorbitant fees before producing public records, which functionally denies many Nevadans access to information that belongs to them in the first place. Current law doesn’t penalize agencies that refuse to comply with the Nevada Public Records Act (NPRA), leaving government employees free to violate the law with impunity. Some government employees can be contentious or unhelpful when responding to public records requests. Agency officials should work with members of the public to help them find the information they are looking for.

The Washoe County School District concealed a taxpayer-funded investigation regarding allegations of bullying and harassment within its special education department.

Three Simple Reforms

Three simple reforms would give Nevadans the access they deserve:

Limit fees Add penalties Put citizens first
Fees must be strictly limited to the direct cost of duplication, and exclude staff time related to search, review and redaction. Courts must be allowed the discretion to impose monetary sanctions on the official responsible for unlawfully withholding or restricting access to public records. Agencies must be required to assist requester in finding information responsive to the purpose of the request.

A widow couldn’t get her own husband’s autopsy released from authorities.

Learning from other states

Recognizing that a law without penalties will rarely be followed, 23 states have added “teeth” to their respective public records laws.

Missouri, New Hampshire, and North Carolina provide that courts can hold the offending official personally liable for the prevailing requester’s costs and attorney’s fees.

Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin all allow courts to impose monetary sanctions on the individual official who knowingly or willfully violated the public records law.

In Nebraska, any official found to have violated the law “shall be subject to removal or impeachment and…be deemed guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.”

In Arkansas, Colorado, and West Virginia, offending officials can face up to 90 days in jail for deliberate lawbreaking.

Nevadans face a litany of penalties if they refuse to pay any of the taxes or fees demanded of them by government. Why should government officials be held to a different standard?


A public information officer for the Washoe County School District refused to disclose how many public information officers work for the district.

Taxpayers already spend more than $6 million a year to help facilitate transparency

Government officials sometimes argue that Nevadans’ right to know is costly, burdensome and a distraction from more important obligations. We maintain that no function of government is more important than transparency. Without openness, taxpayers will lose confidence in the integrity and efficiency of public institutions.

Nevada governments employ dozens of workers at an annual cost of at least $6.1 million in salary and benefits solely to facilitate the release of public records. The public should not be charged again when they seek to exercise their right to access government records. Being transparent and open to the people is a routine part of public service. 


The Clark County School District refused to release a copy of an employee directory and fought for years in court to keep the directory secret.

Reform would save tax dollars

The lack of penalties in Nevada’s Public Records Act is costing taxpayers untold thousands of dollars. As the below examples demonstrate, government agencies are violating the law in an increasingly brazen fashion.

This leads to what should be unnecessary lawsuits, like when CCSD required the Nevada Supreme Court to tell them that their public directory was a public record. All of the legal fees incurred in that case were paid for by taxpayers with money that should have gone toward student learning.

Thus, by ensuring compliance with the NPRA, the threat of civil penalties will save tax dollars, in addition to making good on the full transparency already promised under the Act.

Just a few examples of why these changes must be made

Unfortunately, despite the clear mandate for government transparency under Nevada law, many state and local agency employees have decided the law doesn’t apply to them. When these agencies violate Nevadans’ right to an open and transparent government, it hurts researchers, reporters and — most of all — taxpaying citizens.

Here are just a few examples of how governments violate the Nevada Public Records Act and how their refusal to provide records hurts Nevadans’ right to know:

  • The Incline Village General Improvement District refused to provide its own Board Treasurer with basic financial records.
  • The nonpartisan Guinn Center for Policy Priorities abandoned two planned education studies because researchers couldn’t obtain the release of basic data from the Nevada Department of Education. As a result, citizens, lawmakers and education professionals were denied information that could have led to insights and improvements in public education.
  • The Washoe County School District concealed a taxpayer-funded investigation regarding allegations of bullying and harassment within its special education department.
  • A widow couldn’t get her own husband’s autopsy released from authorities.
  • A mother with a disabled son requested records to find out how he was being treated by authorities. The agency’s refusal to share the information with her left her powerless to protect her son from mistreatment.
  • The Clark County School District refused to release a copy of an employee directory and fought for years in court to keep the directory secret.
  • The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department refused to release basic information regarding the 1 October shooting, creating a level of secrecy and uncertainty that contributed to wild speculation and conspiracy theories in the months that followed.
  • The Nevada Department of Corrections refused to provide a list of companies that use prison labor because “people may be afraid to call on that company due to their preconceived notions,” according to a statement.
  • Former Henderson Police Chief Patrick Moers retired with full severance benefits after a law firm hired by the city found he repeatedly sexually harassed at least one employee. The city declared that report, paid for by city taxpayers, confidential and unavailable for public scrutiny.
  • UNLV suspended a maternal HIV program without warning, in part because of questions about the misuse of federal grant money. The clinic was audited, but that taxpayer-funded report has been kept secret.
  • Clark County School District officials ignored multiple requests for documented complaints against then-Trustee Kevin Child, whose alleged inappropriate behavior toward students and employees sparked an internal investigation and led to restrictions on his access to schools. The Las Vegas Review-Journal had to sue to get records released at the order of a District Court judge.
  • The Clark County coroner’s office continues to refuse to release specific autopsy reports despite a judge’s ruling that the reports are public records.
  • Henderson officials initially deemed confidential proposals, contracts and other documents pertaining to the future headquarters of the NFL’s Raiders by citing only part of a state law, which in its entirety stated such records were public.
  • The attorney general’s office last year kept secret the identities of former state government employees who were paid unused sick and vacation time when they left their jobs. Other public employers routinely provide such information.
  • A public information officer for the Washoe County School District refused to disclose how many public information officers work for the district.
  • The city of Henderson refused to release the exact addresses of fatal residential fires on the grounds that doing so would violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
  • The Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS) submitted false testimony to the court in an effort to keep secret information regarding the names of those who receive taxpayer-funded pensions. After being ultimately ordered to release this information by the Nevada Supreme Court, PERS then altered its record keeping practices in an attempt to hide that information in future years, forcing another protracted legal battle, at taxpayer expense.

Who is in the coalition?

Right to Know Nevada includes media outlets, government watchdogs, civil liberty groups and individuals who understand the value in keeping government open and transparent to the people it serves.

Here is a list of who has joined:

ACLU of Nevada
Beth Dory, Reno Resident (D)
Bob Conrad, ThisisReno.com (Former PIO for state)
Citizen Outreach
Connie Brennan, Publisher/CEO Nevada Business Magazine
Geoffrey Lawrence, former Nevada Assistant State Controller
Howard Stutz, Executive Editor of CDC Gaming Reports
Iljosa Dobler, Incline Village resident
IVGID Board Trustee Matthew Dent
IVGID Board Trustee Tim Callicrate
Jackie Carroll, Henderson resident
KOLO 8
Las Vegas Review-Journal
League of Women Voters of Nevada
Lewis Trout, Winnemucca resident
Nevada Current
Nevada Policy Research Institute
Nevada Press Association
Nevada Wildlife Alliance – Mark Smith
News 3 Las Vegas
Power 2 Parent
Rebecca Thomas, Reno resident
Reno Gazette-Journal
Ron Knecht, former Nevada State Controller
Sam Toll, The Storey Teller
Society of Professional Journalists, Las Vegas
Stephanie Rice, Winter Street Law Group
The Nevada Independent
Thomas Mitchell, Battle Born Media columnist
Timothy Taycher, Public Health Advocate
Trevor Hayes, NSHE Regent
Trina Olsen, WCSD Administrator

Click here if you would like to join the Right to Know Nevada coalition!