A DAY AT THE RACES: Tomorrow is the first full council meeting since the June 3 dust up and it’s anyone’s guess how the melodramas will play out.
(Cue organ music) When we last left our intrepid heroes Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara they had been thwarted by the three evil geniuses, Drs. Asing, Nakamura and Castillo, in their attempt to bring sunshine and democracy to the Separate Kingdom.
Make no mistake about it. If Councilpersons Tim Bynum efforts to open the council’s agenda processes and bring sunshine to pubic documents – as PNN has described throughout last week or so- are to have fruitful results they must continue to challenge Chair Kaipo Asing’s despotism
The ball is in the dissidents’ court. The status quo is what it always was. If past is prologue Office Of Information Practices (OIP) and even court challenges could take months or even years during which time councilmembers’ measures will not find their way onto the council agenda and documents will linger in the darkest recesses of the Historic county Building.
On Kaua`i stonewalling silence and “doing what’s wrong as long as they can” has a long tradition. And no one expects that to suddenly change.
While we don’t know what (or even if) Bynum will do tomorrow, we do know what needs to happen for this challenge to entrenched power to succeed.
There are two different avenues that Bynum- and in fact members of the public- can take to force a discussion of his rule change to clarify that all councilmembers have the right, under council rules, to place bills, resolutions and other matters on the council’s agenda.
The first is to repeat the attempt he made at the June 3 to amend the agenda when the subject of “the agenda” comes up at the beginning of the meeting.
Last time Bynum was unprepared for the legal mumbo jumbo that county Attorney Al Castillo used to block the introduction, discussion and vote upon whether or not to add the matter to the agenda.
HRS §92-7(a) says that “(t)he board shall give written public notice of any.. meeting when anticipated in advance... at least six calendar days before the meeting.
But HRS §92-7(d) anticipates there being situations where the agenda may be amended at the time of the meeting “by adding items thereto with.. a two-thirds recorded vote of all members to which the board is entitled; provided that no item shall be added to the agenda if it is of reasonably major importance and action thereon by the board will affect a significant number of persons”.
Castillo and Asing focused on the “reasonably major importance and action thereon by the board will affect a significant number of persons” section. They argued that even just the discussion of any matter to be added the council would violate the sunshine law.
Though Bynum was armed with an OIP opinion saying the matter could be added to agenda no one anticipated that Castillo and Asing would try to block even the introduction, discussion and vote to add it to the agenda.
By anticipating additions being made and making it conditional, the Sunshine Law, like all others, anticipates that the introduction, discussion and decision is to be made through the normal due deliberatory processes of the council.
If Castillo’s argument- that introduction, deliberation and decision-making would itself violate the Sunshine Law- were valid, nothing could ever be added to the agenda at a meeting whether it meets the two conditions or not because the due deliberation and decision by the council could never take place.
It’s a basic tenet of American jurisprudence that if a law anticipates something occurring, it must be interpreted so as to make that occurrence possible. In large part the case law goes back about as far as one can go, all the way to 1803’s US Supreme Court “Marbury vs. Madison” decision which basically says you can’t have administrative policies that invalidate the law.
It clearly cannot be a Sunshine Law violation to introduce, discuss and vote upon adding a matter to the agenda since the law itself describes the process to do so and the three thresholds the council must meet in order to add something (the third being the 2/3 vote).
The second “opening” for Bynum and even the public to speak on the matter is the presence on the agenda of the approval of the minutes of the June 3 meeting.
As PNN reported last week the OIP has opened up an investigation to determine whether the minutes of the executive session held at the meeting should be made public.
HRS §92-9(b) states that “minutes of executive meetings may be withheld (only) so long as their publication would defeat the lawful purpose of the executive meeting, but no longer”.
The purported lawful purpose Castillo stated was that the matter was not on that meeting’s agenda. But that day’s meeting is over so the condition can no longer be defeated and the council can- and should- vote to release those minutes or at least have a discussion and hold a vote on whether to do so.
We can’t say what Bynum will do tomorrow. Nor can we say if any members of the public will step forward and make these points when these matter come up on the agenda. But if Bynum doesn’t act perhaps the people will.
Members of the public have two, three-minute segments to speak on each agenda item and if they want to speak on either of these they had better be there before 9 a.m. since the first matter on the agenda after the roll call is “approval of the agenda” which is a condition precedent to holding the meeting.
That’s followed by the “approval of the minutes” although minutes approval is something that can be “moved to the end of the agenda”- a tool often used by Asing to delay discussion of controversial matters until interested people are either out of the room or get tired of waiting and go home.
(Cue organ music) Will our heroes accept the status quo and simply lick their wounds? Or will Bynum continue to strike while the iron is hot and the issue is fresh and clear in the minds of the outraged Kaua`i citizenry?
Will the evil genius’ once again thwart our dynamic duo? Or will Bynum and Kawahara’s clear thinking, honesty and penchant for democracy and rule of law, rule the day?
Will Dickie Chang and Derek Kawakami do the bidding of their new masters and establish themselves as political climbers and the latest members of the good ol’ boys club? Or will they support the torch and pitchfork bearing masses and join the side of goodness and sunshine... or will they even just be forced to vote on the matter and show their hand?
Join us again tomorrow in the Minotaur’s Labyrinth for another episode of... “All My Cronies”.