EDITORIAL" E-mails bypass state law

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By The Staff

There’s a reason for the state Open Meetings Act — to require governing bodies to conduct public business openly. After all, the people have every right to see their government in action — we’re paying the bills.

In recent months, however, the mayor and three Las Vegas City Council members have been privately communicating by e-mail. When a council quorum is discussing public business outside of an open meeting, that’s a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

Our mayor, Tony Marquez, likes using e-mail. In his view, it gives him a record by which he can hold people accountable.

We can understand his philosophy, and it’s fine if he’s communicating with his city manager that way. But the law doesn’t allow him to do so with three council members, which constitutes a quorum.

Possibly, the Open Meetings Act will one day allow e-mail discussions to take place between members of governing bodies, but with one important condition: The e-mails should be posted in real time on the Internet.

Given some of the topics of the e-mail discussions, we doubt the mayor and council would engage in such communication if their correspondence was immediately posted online.

What is particularly troubling about this situation is that City Hall produced none of the e-mails in question when we issued a request recently. The city attorney, Carlos Quinones, said the city couldn’t find any of the documents because they weren’t on its servers.

That was incorrect. From another source, we obtained 20 pages of e-mails, many of which were sent to a quorum of the council as well as former City Manager Sharon Caballero and interim City Manager Ken Garcia, both of whom got the e-mails on the city server.

Indeed, Quinones himself received many of the e-mails. While he doesn’t have an e-mail account on the city server, he certainly was well aware of the communications. He had a duty to unveil them, and he didn’t.

Now, the city needs to release all e-mails sent to a council quorum and vow to stop the practice at once.