RENO, Nev. (AP) — A private investigator who used GPS devices to secretly track the vehicles of Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and a county commissioner ahead of the 2002 election asked Friday for the overnight to the Nevada Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s order to identify the clients who hired him.
Schieve filed suit in December seeking damages from private detective David McNeely for a violation of his privacy after a mechanic alerted her to the clandestine GPS tracking device.
Sparks police determined that it was purchased by McNeely and Former Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung joined the lawsuit. in February under similar circumstances.
McNeely’s lawyers said in Friday’s appeal to the state’s high court that divulging the name of a client who paid him to spy on politicians would violate the long-accepted and expected confidentiality of a “private investigator-client relationship.” .
The attorneys said Washoe District Judge David Hardy had wrongly rejected McNeely’s argument earlier this month that the client’s name was a “trade secret” protected by Nevada law. They compared the stealthy nature of the relationship to the “secret sauce” in a treasured recipe.
“Clients of private investigators expect confidentiality,” attorney Ryan Gormley wrote in a 31-page appeal filed Friday.
“Without that confidentiality, the business will fail. Therefore, client identity protection creates significant economic value for both defendants and the private investigation industry as a whole,” he said.
Hardy had ordered McNeely Identify your customer by Friday. But he said in his ruling earlier this month that he was inclined to stay the case if an appeal was in the works because there would be no way to reverse the harm McNeely suffered from the disclosure of his client’s identity if a further appeals court He later decided that he had a right to keep it a secret.
Another lawyer filed a motion this week to stop the process on behalf of an anonymous John Doe who said he hired McNeely in an effort to combat government corruption.
The document filed by attorney Jeffery Barr said John Doe has a First Amendment right to anonymously investigate elected officials. He said Doe had not broken any laws or disseminated any information collected on his behalf and never knew about or directed McNeely to place GPS trackers on the vehicles.
On Thursday, Judge Hardy agreed to stay the case while McNeely pursued appeals, a stipulation to which all parties had 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 entered his property to install the device, which a mechanic noticed while working on his vehicle last year during the campaign season, about two weeks before he won re-election for 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 the use of a GPS tracking device to monitor a person’s movements could be “a devious invasion of privacy.”
McNeely’s appeal said that the intervention of the Supreme Court is necessary to bring clarity to the entire state legal industry.
“In the context of the private investigator-client relationship, the secrecy of the relationship between the private investigator and the client is precisely what makes the relationship valuable to the business,” the appeal said.
“Because, without the secret, there would be no relationship,” he said. “Confidentiality is the secret sauce.”