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Attorney general finds council violated open meeting law

The Nevada attorney general’s office issued a finding this month that the City Council violated the “spirit and letter” of the state’s open meeting law when several members gathered for a breakfast meeting with a candidate for the position of finance director.

The ruling came after a complaint filed by resident Joseph Kranyac III alleging a quorum of council members attended a private meeting Sept. 21 with Hyun Kim, who was later hired as the city’s finance director/real estate officer.

“The private meeting falls squarely within the statutory definition of ‘meeting’ set forth in NRS 241.015 (3)(a)(1),” the ruling states.

As a result of the decision, the ruling of the violation must be placed on the council’s next agenda, acknowledging the results of the attorney general office’s investigation. There is no penalty attached to the ruling; however, the office “strongly recommends that the City Council of Boulder City members and staff receive training” on the open meeting law.

While the matter will be placed on the city’s April 11 meeting, the next one that the matter could be legally included on the agenda after the March 20 ruling, the city’s official position is that council members didn’t believe they were violating the law, which excludes social gatherings.

“A welcome breakfast was held for the new Boulder City Finance Director Hyun Kim and attended by members of city council. Our initial understanding was this was not in violation of the Nevada open meeting law. No official business, discussions or deliberations took place at the event,” said City Manager David Fraser. “After a complaint filed by a Boulder City resident, the Nevada Attorney General concluded the breakfast was not in accordance with the open meeting law. We are taking appropriate steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

City Attorney Dave Olsen elaborated on the city’s position, writing Nevada Revised Statutes “states, in pertinent part, that the term ‘meeting’ does not include a gathering of a quorum of the council ‘which occurs at a social function if the members do not deliberate toward a decision or take action on any matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.’”

“There is no evidence that the City Council engaged in any deliberations, nor is there any evidence that the council took action, regarding Mr. Kim, his employment with the city, or any other issue,” he continued. Mayor Rod Woodbury along with council members Peggy Leavitt, Duncan McCoy and Rich Shuman attended the breakfast with Kim; Councilman Cam Walker was not present.

Although the City Council voted 3-0 to concur with Kim’s appointment to the position during its Oct. 11 meeting, as required by city code, the minutes reflect that members were not involved in the hiring process. Fraser selected Kim and was in charge of the process.

Leavitt and Walker were absent from the Oct. 11 meeting.

The attorney general office’s ruling was based on the agenda, supporting material and minutes of the Oct. 11 council meeting, along with material provided by Kranyac and a response to the complaint from Olsen. “Neither Mr. Kim nor any of the council members or city staff were interviewed as part of the attorney general investigation,” Olsen wrote in his statement.

“The city was apparently mistaken in considering the breakfast at the Boulder Dam Hotel to be a social function. Appropriate steps will be taken to assure that this does not happen in the future,” he concluded.

Kranyac didn’t respond to a request for a comment about why he filed the complaint.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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