Catherine Cortez Masto
CARSON CITY, Nev. (Legal Newsline)-The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a lower court decision limiting how the state's Open Meeting Law is applied to the Nevada Tax Commission.
The state attorney general's office sued the Tax Commission in June 2005 after it failed to vote in an open meeting to approve a sales tax refund for Southern California Edison.
Behind closed doors the Tax Commission agreed to issue a $40 million refund to the Rosemead, Calif.-based energy giant of some use taxes the utility paid between March 1998 and December 2000.
Carson City District Court Judge Michael Griffin in 2006 sided with the Tax Commission, ruling that the confidentiality law governing proprietary information was an exemption to the state's open meeting law.
The attorney general appealed the case to the state Supreme Court. Justice Jim Hardesty wrote the high court's majority opinion.
"When considering Edison's appeal, the Tax Commission deliberated entirely in closed session and voted in closed session. Therefore, its action granting Edison's refund was taken in violation of the Open Meeting Law," Hardesty wrote.
"Actions taken in violation of the Open Meeting Law are void. Therefore, because the Tax Commission's grant of Edison's tax refund is void, we reverse the district court's judgment," he added.
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who inherited the case, praised the court's decision.
"This decision is not only important for the integrity of Nevada's Open Meeting Law," she said. "It is also important for the citizens of Nevada, because it ensures that our government will remain open and transparent when making decisions involving millions of dollars paid by taxpayers."
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.