A transparent and healthy democracy is the result of an open government. State and federal laws exist to promote transparency and access to public records. In an effort to encourage transparent government in Nevada, the Nevada Open Government Coalition (NOGC) launched during Sunshine Week: March 15 – 21, 2020. Sunshine Week is an annual nationwide celebration of access to public information.
Reynolds School of Journalism Assistant Professor of Media Law Patrick File is the founder and current president of the coalition.
“Public advocacy groups and public interest groups all have a role to play, but so does the average citizen. We’re going to come together and educate the public about the benefits of an open government and [citizens’] role in government accountability,” File said.
NOGC’s mission, in addition to educating stakeholders, is to advocate and empower on issues related to public records policies, open meeting laws and more.
“Hopefully, the open government coalition will be a resource and clearinghouse of information for journalists. It can also help an average, civically-engaged citizen learn more about what their government is up to,” File said.
The NOGC plans to implement campaigns and host events and workshops for journalists and members of the public to help them understand how government transparency affects them.
Prior to the creation of the NOGC, Nevada did not have an open government coalition. When colleagues from the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and National Freedom of Information Coalition at the University of Florida reached out to File, he began developing the coalition.
The NOGC is composed of 17 board members and four executive board members, including attorney and founding partner of McLetchie Law Maggie McLetchie, National Alliance on Mental Illness Executive Director Robin Reedy and Las Vegas Society of Professional Journalists President Wesley Juhl.
“We’re not all single-minded, and I think that’s going to be a really good strength of this organization as to why it’s helpful when it comes to advocating for all of the public’s interests,” File said.
Although the NOGC does not offer memberships to the public, its current members are developing an advisory committee, a group of individuals with an interest in promoting open government, who are stakeholders and may have expertise to share.
“Open government is for everybody. Open government laws, public records laws and open meetings laws aren’t just for journalists,” File said.