PERS files are confidential, court rules

Geoff Dornan

Individual files of people in the Public Employee Retirement System are confidential, the Nevada Supreme Court declared Thursday, overturning a district court ruling.

The demand for individual records and what those retirees get from PERS was filed in 2011 by the Reno Gazette-Journal, which argued the public’s right to know outweighed any statute making them confidential. Carson District Judge Todd Russell agreed and ordered the records released.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court wrote that state law specifically makes those individual files confidential. But the court ruled that the “scope of confidentiality does not extend to all information by virtue of it being contained in individuals’ files.”

The justices wrote that when the information is contained in administrative reports and other media separate from the individual files, that information is public.

The statute, they said, “only protects as confidential the individuals’ files held by PERS, not all information contained in separate media that also happens to be contained in individuals’ files.”

The opinion also clarifies that, although information may be public, the law does not impose a duty on an agency to create new documents or customized reports by searching for and compiling information from individuals’ files and other records.

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