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Corinna Cohn cohnc@unr.nevada.edu

IN THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS

CORINNA COHN (for herself and members ) ) of the Association collectively), ) ) Petitioner, ) ) vs. ) ) PRISCILLA ACOSTA (in her official capacity) ) as Speaker of the 76th Senate of the ) ) Associated Students), GRACIE GEREMIA, ) ) (in her official capacity as Speaker of the 77th ) ) Senate of the Associated Students, SENATE ) ) OF THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS, ) ) ALEJANDRA REYES (in her official capacity) ) as Secretary of the Senate), ) ) Respondents ) )

Case No.: AN-004 COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF VIOLATIONS OF SECTIONS 7(c)(1) and 7(e)(3) of ASUN PUBLIC LAW 75–51 and NRS 241.035(1) (Sufficiency of minutes)

Petitioner complains and alleges as follows: JURISDICTION AND VENUE Jurisdiction in the Judicial Council of the Associated Students is proper under Article IV, section 4 of the Constitution of the Associated Students. The Judicial Council is the sole judicial body of the Associated Students.
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GENERAL ALLEGATIONS The Parties At all times relevant to this complaint: 1. Petitioner is a member of the Associated Students of the University of

Nevada, within the meaning of Art. I, sec. 1(a) of the Constitution of the Associated Students. 2. Priscilla Acosta was the duly elected Speaker of the Senate of the Associated

Students at the Seventy-Sixth Session. She was the presiding officer of the Senate and its elected leader. Her term ended at midnight on April 15, 2009. 3. Gracie Geremia is the duly elected Speaker of the Senate of the Associated

Students at the Seventy-Seventh Session. She is the presiding officer of the Senate and its elected leader. She took office on April 15, 2009. 4. 5. Alejandra Reyes is the Secretary of the Senate. The Senate of the Associated Students is the legislative branch of the

Associated Students, established under Article II of the ASUN Constitution. The Senate is sued in its collective capacity because it has an obligation to ensure it is adhering to proper process in conducting its business. Background Information The public bodies of the Associated Students are subject to the provisions of

the Open Meeting Law (Chapter 241 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS)). NRS 241.038 states “The Board of Regents of the University of Nevada shall establish for the student governments within the Nevada System of Higher Education requirements equivalent to those of this chapter and shall provide for their enforcement.” In carrying out its statutory obligation, the Board of Regents adopted regulations governing the meetings of student governments, carried at Title 4, Board of Regents Handbook, Chapter 20, Part B, section 3.
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Specifically, the policy states, after setting out a recital that the policy is enacted pursuant to NRS 241.038 and applies to each student government recognized by the Board of Regents, that “[t]he meetings of any multi-member…legislative body…of a student government shall be held in accordance with the provisions of the Nevada Open Meeting Law, Chapter 241 of the Nevada Revised Statutes, as amended.” 7. The Board of Regents’ recognition of the Associated Students, as established

under its Constitution, is evidenced by the publication of the ASUN Constitution at Chapter 16 of Title 5, Board of Regents Handbook. It is without dispute that ASUN is recognized by the Regents. (The Board of Regents has subsequently changed its policy on how constitutions of student governments get approved. Approval of the Board is no longer required. Thus, publication at Title 5 of the Handbook might no longer be competent evidence of institutional recognition of a student government.) 8. The Senate of the Associated Students is a multi-member legislative body of

the ASUN. Article II of the ASUN Constitution establishes and provides for the legislative branch of the Association. “The legislative power of the Association shall be vested in a Senate of the Associated Students” (Art. II, sec. 1). Further, the Senate is composed of 22 members (ASUN Const. Art. II, sec. 1(a)). Therefore, the Senate meets the definition of being a multi-member legislative body of a student government. 9. For the purposes of this complaint, the provisions of the Nevada Open

Meeting Law (OML) are made directly actionable under the judicial power of the Associated Students by virtue of section 7 of the ASUN Public Records, Transparency, and Accountability Act of 2008 (ASUN Public Law 75–51; 75 ASUN Stat. 131), which generally provides that the secretary of a public body shall take minutes “as required by law” (section 7(c)(1)). 10. NRS 241.035(1) requires that public bodies “keep written minutes of each of
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its meeting.” The law further requires that the minutes include “The substance of all matters proposed, discussed or decided” (NRS 241.035(1)(c)). Section 7(e) of ASUN Public Law 75–51 contains requirements substantively similar to the OML. Facts of the Case 11. The 76th Session of the Senate of the Associated Students met 38 times based

on a review of the agendas posted on the website of the Associated Students (www.asun.unr.edu), under Senate meetings. The minutes from the April 15, 2009, Senate meeting (attached exhibit) represents a sample of the conduct complained against in this complaint. 12. The Senate at that meeting elected its Speaker for the new session. The

minutes (exhibit) do not reflect the substance of what was discussed at all at that meeting. Three Senators were placed into nomination for Speaker. The minutes state “Each nominee—was (sic) recognized to give a 10 minute presentation to the Senate.” Further, the minutes state, “The Senate questioned and debated the nominees.” The audio recording and the account of The Nevada Sagebrush indicate that the Senate spent over one hour questioning, debating, and discussing the nominees before taking a vote (available online at <http://asun.nevadasagebrush.com/2009/04/15/asun-senate-meeting-april-15/>). The minutes, however, do not reflect any of that discussion, as is required under the Open Meeting Law. This is akin to the situation described in Paragraph 15 below. 13. The minutes further show in items 6, 7, 8, and 10 that the Senate adopted

several resolutions. The minutes do not reflect the substance of what was decided. This is akin to the situation discussed below in Paragraph 16. 14. On information and belief, Petitioner believes many other sets of minutes of

the Senate are deficient for the same reasons as the set used as a representative sample above. Petitioner believes that all sets of minutes during the 76th Session and 77th Session, so far
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had, are deficient for the same reasons as set out in this complaint. First Cause of Action Declaratory Relief Violation of Section 7(e)(3) of ASUN Public Law 75–51, NRS 241.035(1)(c) 15. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained within

paragraphs 1 through 14 as though fully incorporated herein. 16. NRS 241.035(1)(c) requires that minutes kept by a public body must include,

among other things, “The substance of all matters proposed, discussed or decided.” 17. The Nevada Attorney General’s Office has published a handbook consisting

of guidance to public bodies within the state on complying with the provisions of the OML. The Attorney General’s Office is authorized under the OML to issue advisory opinions with respect to the enforcement of the law. In so doing, the Office has opined on the requirement that minutes include the substance of what happens at a meeting. In the Office’s Open Meeting Law Manual, readers are directed to Open Meeting Law Opinion No. 98-03. “See OMLO 98-03 (July 7, 1998) for an example of how a public body may violate the Open Meeting Law by failing to reflect in its meeting minutes the substance of the discussion by the members of the public body of certain relevant matters” (Nevada Open Meeting Law Manual, Nevada Attorney General’s Office, 10th ed., December 2005, at §10.02). 18. The Attorney General opined (OMLO No. 98-02) on whether the minutes of

the Board of Trustees of the Washoe County School District complied with the standard in the law. At the meeting in question, the Board was engaging in discussion about the selection process for a new superintendent. The opinion found that [t]he Board spent 43 minutes (about one-third of the meeting) discussing the selection process, and, in the opinion of this office, deciding on the selection of the Dr. Attea’s firm and giving it the authority to advertise at the NSBA conference in New Orleans, yet the minutes are completely silent about the substance of the discussion
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(OMLO 98-02 at 10). The Attorney General’s opinion is relevant to the ASUN cases. 19. Another OML opinion from the Attorney General’s office provides further

guidance on the standard for minutes. In this opinion, a board of county commissioners was discussing revisions to an ordinance. The minutes state, “John Doughty went over the revisions that had been completed at the direction of the Board. He felt that the revisions will streamline the process and provide clarity” (OMLO 2002-01 at 3). The Attorney General opined that the minutes were not compliant with the law: The minutes of the meeting … do not reflect the substance of what was discussed or decided on item 43a as required by NRS 241.035(1)(c). From the minutes we know that John Doughty went over the revisions but the substance of those revisions are not expressed in the minutes. The ordinance was read by title no differently than expressed in the agenda. The motion to approve Ordinance 97-801 similarly does not reflect the substance of what the board decided. Without detail on the changes made by the ordinance being reflected in the minutes, the public cannot know from the minutes the substance of the discussion or the decision of the Board. (Ibid.) 20. The Attorney General has opined many times on the issue of the sufficiency

of minutes. In OMLO No. 99-09, the Attorney General found a commission violated the OML because the minutes “do not reflect all matters discussed or decided at the meeting” (OMLO 99-09 at 6). In OMLO 2001-07, the Attorney General found a violation of the OML when the minutes did not include a notation of absence of a discussion on an agenda item. Thus, if an item is not discussed at a meeting, the minutes should state so. 21. The Council should give weight to the Nevada Attorney General’s opinion

because the Open Meeting Law is the same for state and local entities as it is for the ASUN Senate. The provisions of the law do not change for ASUN, as they were made specifically applicable to ASUN by both the Regents and ASUN. 22. In the instant case, the Council should view challenged minutes in light of the

standard for minutes as articulated by the Nevada Attorney General.
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Accordingly, the Council should declare that the Senate is not in compliance

with the provisions of the OML in that the minutes of its meetings do not reflect the substance of all matters proposed, discussed, or decided. Second Cause of Action Injunctive Relief Arising out of First Cause of Action 24. Petitioner repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained within

paragraphs 1 through 23 as though fully incorporated herein. 25. The Council should enjoin the Senate from approving minutes in violation of

minutes substance standard of the Open Meeting Law. Third Cause of Action Declaratory Relief Declaring Null and Void Certain Acts 26. Petitioner repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained within

paragraphs 1 through 25 as though fully incorporated herein. 27. Assuming the Council grants the relief granted in the First Cause of Action,

the Council should also declare void the acts had and decisions made during the meetings declared to have been held in violation of the Open Meeting Law. NRS 241.036 states “[t]he action of any public body taken in violation of any provision of this chapter is void.” Accordingly, if the Council finds that violations occurred, it has no choice but to declare them void. Although Petitioner is aware that NRS 241.037(3) contains a statute of limitations on when a person can bring a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to seek compliance with the OML or to have actions declared void, NRS 241.038 states that the Board of Regents is to establish the regulations governing student governments and is to “provide for their enforcement.” The parallel provision at the Regents level to NRS 241.036
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is at Title 4, Board of Regents Handbook, Chapter 20, Part B, section 3(5)(a): “Violations of this section shall be treated as follows: a. Any action taken in violation of the provisions of this section is void.” Because ASUN has enacted its own legislation stating that its officials, in the ASUN context, are to comply with the law, the provisions of the OML as applied on ASUN by the Regents is enforceable in this Council under the constitutional judicial power of the Associated Students. 28. Further, the Regents did not institute a statute of limitations on enforcement

complaints, nor did ASUN. WHEREFORE, Petitioner prays for judgment against Respondents as follows: 1. For a declaration that Respondents’ actions constitute a violation of the laws

and regulations cited herein. 2. For an order enjoining Respondents from engaging in further violations of the

laws and regulations cited herein 3. For a declaration that actions take in violation of the laws and regulations

cited herein are void. 4. For such other relief as the Council deems just and proper. Dated this _____ day of __________________, 2009. ____________________________ Corinna Cohn cohnc@unr.nevada.edu Petitioner

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