RENO, Nev. (AP) — A private investigator who used GPS devices to secretly track the vehicles of Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and a district commissioner before the 2002 election late Friday petitioned the Nevada Supreme Court for a judge’s warrant be canceled by the customer who commissioned it.
Schieve filed a lawsuit in December, seeking damages from private investigator David McNeely for invasion of her privacy after a mechanic alerted her to the secret GPS tracking device.
Sparks police found it was purchased by McNeely, and former Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung joined the lawsuit in February in similar circumstances.
Lawyers for McNeely said in their appeal to the state Supreme Court on Friday that disclosing the name of a client who paid him to spy on politicians violated the long-accepted and expected confidentiality of a “private investigator-client relationship.” ‘ would be violated.
The attorneys said Washoe Circuit Judge David Hardy did so incorrectly dismissed McNeely’s argument Earlier this month, he announced that the client’s name was a “trade secret” protected under Nevada law. They likened the clandestine nature of the relationship to the “secret sauce” in a coveted recipe.
“Clients of private investigators expect confidentiality,” attorney Ryan Gormley wrote in a 31-page appeal filed Friday.
“Without that confidentiality, business will fail. Thus, protecting clients’ identities creates significant economic value for both the defendants and the private investigation industry as a whole,” he said.
Hardy had instructed McNeely to identify his client by Friday. However, in his ruling earlier this month he indicated that he was inclined to stay the case if appealed because there was no way to undo the damage McNeely suffered from the disclosure of his client’s identity , if an appeals court later came to a verdict on the case, it had the right to keep it secret.
Another attorney this week filed a dismissal motion on behalf of an anonymous John Doe who said he hired McNeely to fight government corruption.
The story goes on
The document, filed by attorney Jeffery Barr, says John Doe has the right under the First Amendment to investigate elected officials anonymously. It said Doe did not break any laws or disseminate the information collected on his behalf and was never aware of or directed McNeely to put GPS trackers on vehicles.
Judge Hardy on Thursday agreed to stay the case while McNeely pursued appeals, a provision to which all parties agreed.
The tracking device was in Schieve’s vehicle for at least several weeks and in Hartung’s vehicle for several months, the lawsuit says.
Schieve said McNeely invaded her property to install the device, which a mechanic noticed while she was working on her vehicle mid-campaign last year, about two weeks before she won her re-election as mayor in November.
Hartung also won re-election but has since resigned to accept an appointment as chairman of the Nevada Transportation Commission.
Hardy said in his May 4 ruling that using a GPS tracking device to monitor someone’s movements could constitute “an unlawful invasion of privacy.”
McNeely’s appeal said the Supreme Court’s intervention was necessary to provide clarity in state law across the industry.
“In the context of the private investigator-client relationship, it is precisely the secrecy of the relationship between the private investigator and the client that makes the relationship valuable to the company,” the appeal reads.
“Because without the secrecy there would be no relationship,” it said. “Confidentiality is the secret.”