Gary Schmidt

Activist seeks access to board applications

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Susan Voyles (SVOYLES@RGJ.COM)

Washoe County citizen activist Gary Schmidt is suing the county to obtain copies of applications from people interested in an opening on the county's property tax appeals board. Schmidt pointed out in a commission meeting Monday that the application itself states it's a public record. At bottom of the form, it says, "This document is part of the public record and is available for public review." But Melanie Foster, chief civil district attorney, said the applications are not public until after the agenda is posted for the county commission meeting when the appointment is to be made and the applications are provided to commissioners. Schmidt disagrees. "I can assure you I can have them as soon as they are submitted across the counter," he said. It's Schmidt's sixth lawsuit against the county to obtain public records, and he claims to have won five of those six cases. His lawsuit filing in Washoe District Court last Friday includes a letter from Rita Lencioni, assistant to the county manager, denying him access to the applications until they are provided to the board and "made public." Foster said the applications should not be released until the board gets its agenda because some people might have second thoughts and withdraw their applications, which includes personal information. Foster said the governor makes appointments when there's an opening on the county commission, and Gov. Jim Gibbons has refused to make public the names of those applicants. When people file to run for elected offices, however, those filings become public as soon as they cross the counter at state and local election offices. Schmidt's term on the board of equalization, which hears tax appeals, ended last July, and he is one of those who have applied for the vacancy. Schmidt said the refusal is part of a pattern and practice for over a decade and is asking for attorney fees and damages in excess of $10,000.

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