Nevada’s Division of Insurance must turn over records regarding Obamacare navigators’ criminal histories, a judge ruled yesterday. Unless the Division is able to obtain a stay, the records are due for release next week.
As I write in my story today, Don Campbell, the attorney representing National Review and the Las Vegas Review-Journal in this suit, described the judge’s ruling:
“The judge clearly and unequivocally determined that the Division of Insurance had withheld public records that should have been disclosed pursuant to the Nevada Public Records Act. The judge found there was no legitimate excuse for the withholding of these records. . . . He further stated that, as a result of this stonewalling, he was going to impose attorney’s fees. Otherwise, it would simply provide an incentive to others at the Division of Insurance and those similarly situated at other state agencies to defy the law as it had been defied here and simply cost the requesting party needless time, energy, manpower hours and fees.”
The Nevada Division of Insurance pulled shenanigans from the very beginning:
Public information officer Jake Sunderland told me it would be “inappropriate” to identify which statute or policy determines whether the Division of Insurance can approve the application of a navigator with a criminal history. When I pressed him on why it would be “inappropriate,” he hung up on me.
In a sworn statement, Sunderland concedes he hung up on me, though he claims I “became hostile” and “continued to be belligerent.” In fact I was simply firm in requesting an answer from a public information officer whose job is to provide information to the public.
The Nevada Division of Insurance also deployed some odd legal tactics in its attempt to keep these records from the public. In its initial denial letter, it claimed, in what appeared to be a contradiction, that the Division possessed no responsive records whatsoever — and that it also could not disclose the responsive records it possessed.
Further justifying its refusal to release records, the Division cited a clause in the Nevada legal code, NRS 679B.190(7), which states that “the Commissioner may classify as confidential the records of a consumer or information relating to a consumer to protect the health, welfare or safety of the consumer.” However, the records requested were not about consumers but about possibly criminal navigators. The Insurance Division’s initial response also cited a law that was repealed in 1967 — purely a mistake, I was later assured.
Nevertheless, I tried to resolve this out of court, asking the Division of Insurance to give me further clarification after its initial denial. My attempt was met by even more stonewalling. Eventually the two publications sued.
While it’s true that actual Federal Bureau of Investigation background check reports aren’t public, the Division could possess a host of other records indicating whether an Obamacare navigator had a criminal record. But instead of producing these, the Division claimed it was legally prohibited from releasing anything at all.
That simply wasn’t true, and the judge agreed.
Other news outlets are picking up on the story, too, including the Associated Press.