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Sparks City Council Meeting 3/27/2017

General Business: 9.9

Title: Self-Corrective Action by the Sparks City Council under the Open Meeting Law; Rescission of Prior Approval of a Draft Resolution.
Petitioner/Presenter: Chester H. Adams/Douglas R. Thornley
Recommendation: That the Sparks City Council rescind their electronic approval of the February 28, 2017, draft of the Mayor’s Resolution as presented by the City Attorney.
Financial Impact: N/A
Business Impact (Per NRS 237):
    
A Business Impact Statement is not required because this is not a rule.
Agenda Item Brief:

This agenda item self-corrects action by the Sparks City Council regarding a possible Open Meeting Law violation that occurred on March 1, 2017 regarding the Mayor’s Resolution as electronically presented by the City Attorney.



Background:

On Monday, February 27, 2015, it was disclosed that a possible legislative bill was being considered by certain Nevada Legislators which intended to unilaterally amend the Sparks City Charter without the benefit of either public input from Sparks’s citizens or the Sparks Charter Committee.

It is alledged that the Sparks City Charter would be amended to revoke Sparks’s citizens right to vote for their non-partisan city attorney by changing the city attorney’s position from elected to appointed.

Pursuant to a request made by the City Attorney, the Mayor agreed to sponsor a resolution recognizing the fact that Sparks’s citizens had already voted twice to keep their right to vote for their City Attorney and that amendments to the Sparks City Charter were better left to the Sparks Charter Committee.

Pursuant to individual conversations between the City Attorney and the City Council members on February 27, 2017, several council members agreed in principle with the Mayor’s proposed resolution.

Thereafter, on February 28, 2017, the Sparks City Attorney forwarded a draft resolution to all City Councilmembers (Exhibit 1).

On March 1, 2017, three (3) City Councilmembers responded to the City Attorney indicating they supported the Mayor’s draft resolution. The City Councilmembers inadvertently used the “reply all” email feature thereby disclosing their approval to their fellow council members (Exhibits 2, 3 and 4).



Analysis:

Open Meeting Law Violation

Pursuant to NRS 241.015(3)(a), a meeting of a public body is defined as a gathering of a quorum of members via electronic communication. The City Attorney’s email of February 28, 2017, sent via a group email to the entire Sparks City Council and Mayor technically constituted a “meeting” of a quorum of the Sparks City Council.

Pursuant to NRS 241.015(1)(a)-(b), the term “action” refers to a decision or commitment made by a majority of the members of a public body that are present at a “meeting” by means of electronic communication.

Pursuant to NRS 241.020, all “meetings” must be open to the public pursuant to written notice setting forth a properly agendized statement of topics to be covered. While inadvertent, by responding to the City Attorney’s email via the “reply all” email feature, a majority of the Sparks City Council took “action” by indicating a commitment or promise concerning the Mayor’s resolution. The action taken by a quorum of the City Councilmembers took place outside of a properly noticed public meeting.

Corrective Action to be Taken

First and foremost, it was the City Attorney who facilitated the “meeting” of the Sparks City Council by sending out a group email to the entire City Council. This email should have been sent to individual City Councilmembers, containing both a reference to Nevada’s Opening Meeting Law and an admonition to not share their views with other City Councilmembers, either by electronic or personal communications. This would have been a permissible alternative as defined in NRS 241.015(3)(2)(I).

Pursuant to NRS 241.0365, a public body may take action by posting an agenda item to correct any alleged violation of Nevada’s Opening Meeting Law. The inclusion of such an agenda item is not an admission of wrongdoing for the purposes of a civil action, criminal prosecution or injunctive relief.

In order to take corrective action on the matter, the Sparks City Council should rescind their prior approval of the Mayor’s resolution concerning the City Council’s disapproval of the Nevada Legislature’s unilateral amendment to the Sparks City Charter changing the City Attorney’s position from elected to appointed.



Alternatives:

The City Council is free to take future action, or no action at all, concerning this matter as long as such action is properly agendized and otherwise complies with Nevada’s Open Meeting Law.



Recommended Motion:

I move that the approval of the February 28, 2017, draft of the proposed Mayor’s Resolution presented be rescinded.



Attached Files:
     Agenda Items for OML Exhibits 1-4.pdf

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