SUNSHINE SUPERMAN: Another day, another outrage courtesy of the Kaua`i County Council- this time trying to essentially gut the state Sunshine Law.
As part of the yearly Hawai`i State Association of Counties (HSAC)
package of bills they'd like the legislature to take up next session,
a Maui council proposal- which was unanimously passed out of a Kaua`i
council committee last week- would create a loophole in the open
meeting provisions that you could drive a back-room deal through.
The Sunshine Law's very long
section on Permitted Interactions of Members (92-2.5) carefully
carves out what board members can and can't do outside of a duly
agendaed meeting, mostly a prohibition on more than two members
discussing matters likely to come before the council, especially if
they are "deliberating toward a decision" and, strictly, on
soliciting or offering a certain vote on the matter.
But the proposal would blast that out of the water thereby making
a mockery of the Sunshine Law.
It would add this
bit of devious dreck at the very end:
(i) Notwithstanding the foregoing, members of a county council
may jointly attend and speak at a community, educational, or
informational meeting or presentation, including a meeting of another
entity, legislative hearing, convention, seminar, conference, or
community meeting, without limitation; provided that the meeting or
presentation is open to the public.
Though their "purpose" statement says that it "permit
members of a county council to jointly attend and speak at a
community, educational, or informational meeting or presentation"
what it really does is remove all restrictions by beginning the
actual change to the law with "(n)notwithstanding the
foregoing"- meaning no matter what it says in "Permitted
Interactions" section- and ending with "without limitation
provided that the meeting or
presentation is open to the public" doubling down on the
Because the term "open to the public" does not even
include notification much less filing a six-day-in-advance agenda, a
"meeting" can be both open to the public and held in the
proverbial "backroom" with no notification of anyone but
the councilmembers if they choose not to tell anyone.
The rest is garbage meant to distract the reader from the meat of
the change. It doesn't even say another non-councilperson need be
present for this "meeting."
Seemingly every year the various county councils try to get out
from under the Sunshine Law so they can go back to doing backroom
"done deals," the only difference from the bad old days
being that they aren't held in smoke-filled rooms any more because no
one smokes. But this year they've outdone themselves in trying to
make it look like it's just a provision to allow them to attend and
speak at community meetings.
Actually that alone- without the "notwithstanding the
forgoing" or the "without limitations" provisions-
could be used to negotiate via the microphone. That would violate the
prohibition on "serial communications" to circumvent the
Their "justification" section is an even more cynical
attempt to bamboozle the legislature into blowing up the sunshine
law. It reads
"Council members are impeded from attending community and
educational meetings when it is possible that such attendance will
result in alleged Sunshine Law violations or create other burdens.
Community and educational meetings provide critically important
information on matters that may be addressed by policy makers. If
enacted, this bill will permit council members to better serve their
constituents in a well-informed, transparent, and responsive manner
without fear of violating the Sunshine Law."
Wah wah wah wah wah boo-hoo-boo.
If they really wanted to be able to go to these meeting there's
nothing stopping them now as long as they follow the Sunshine Law
while doing so. But this feigned, supposed inability to understand
the Sunshine Law has been used for years to get out from under it,
often with the added "but the legislature doesn't have to follow
the sunshine law- why should we?.. wah, wah, wah, boo-hoo."
The final vote on this reprehensible request is scheduled for a
final vote at the Wed. Oct 9 full council meeting at 9 a.m.