Editorial: PERS finally comes through by releasing some public records

Finally, PERS has just coughed up some of the public records on state public employee retirees and their benefits.
The Reno Gazette-Journal sued the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada two years ago seeking the names and benefit amounts of all PERS recipients. Carson City District Court Judge James Russell ruled that information should be a part of the public record and ordered PERS to create a special file and release it.

In his ruling Judge Russell noted that the law “expressly states that the names and compensation amounts of (existing) state employees are public information. It thus follows that the names of retired public employees and the amounts of pension benefits flowing to them as a result of the compensation amounts paid to them while they were active public employees are likewise public information.”

PERS appealed to the state Supreme Court, which a couple of months ago sided with Judge Russell, agreeing the data being sought were indeed public records.
But the justices threw in the caveat that PERS was not required “to create new documents or customized reports by searching for and compiling information from individuals’ files or other records.”

PERS had long contended that the information being sought by the newspaper could be found only in individual files of members, which by law are confidential.
The Reno paper continued its legal battle by filing a motion asking the district court to “compel” the production of the information the RGJ requested.

According to the Gazette-Journal, PERS responded with a motion asking the judge to deny the request, but in that motion PERS admitted for the first time that much of the information being sought is available in several reports and not just in the individual files.
For example, the monthly benefit check run, the direct deposit register and monthly employer reports contain the names and benefit amounts of the retired employees. All that would have to be done is for the Social Security numbers to be redacted.

Redaction, as the courts have ruled in the past, is not tantamount to creating “new documents or customized reports by searching for and compiling information from individuals’ files or other records.”

The taxpayers of Nevada are on the hook for PERS benefits and deserve to be fully informed on just how those funds are dispensed and to whom and in what amounts. The public employees’ pension fund currently has an unfunded liability of $11 billion, if you use the convoluted bookkeeping allowed by such public programs. If accounting methods required of the private sector were used, the unfunded liability tops $48 billion.

It has been the inability to cover promised public pensions that has sent Detroit and several other cities into bankruptcy.
This week PERS released the January 2014 payroll register which lists the names of those getting a retirement check and their gross and net pay. The document does not include everything needed to make a proper analysis, but it is start after years resistance. — TM

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