Saturday, November 29, 2014


(Note corrected time and location 12 noon at the War Memorial Convention Hall)
Action Alert- Please write to the council at and ask that the new rules be deferred to the next regular council meeting for full public testimony and council consideration. You may also come Monday 12/1/14 at 12 noon at the War Memorial Convention Hall  to ask for a deferral.

(PNN) A major rewrite of the Kaua`i County Council rules which would cut mandatory time for public testimony on agenda items from six minutes to three and give broad new powers to to limit testimony to new chair Mel Rapozo is scheduled to be adopted at Monday's mostly "ceremonial" Inaugural Meeting.

The rules, submitted by Rapozo, would also remove a section that requires the chair to put bills, resolutions and communications from councilmembers on the agenda within 120 days of submission, thus allowing the chair to scuttle proposed legislation. Legislation like Bill 2491 (Ordinance 960) related to disclosure of pesticides and GMOs might never have made it onto the agenda under the new rules, especially with Rapozo, a critic of the bill, as chair.

An entirely newly-created lengthy section on "Public Testimony" also give the chair the power to "restrict or terminate a speaker’s right to the floor for intemperate or abusive behavior or language" giving the chair potentially arbitrary and capricious powers to stop someone from speaking, as well as placing many other new restrictions on public testimony.

The new rules also eliminate a recently added section that allows the public to testify for three minutes on any agenda item that day, at the beginning of any meeting rather than having to wait until the item comes up for consideration- many times hours and hours into a meeting, even stretching into the night on occasion.

Monday's meeting is traditionally mostly ceremonial in nature and, according to the agenda, all testimony will be restricted three minutes to be given at the beginning of the meeting, thus violating current council rules and thereby, according to the Office of Information Practices (OIP), the state Sunshine Law which requites rules for public testimony to be of a standing nature and established well ahead of being applied.

In a bit of slight of hand the proposed rule changes as published at the Council's Webcast page, are not in the "Ramseyer" format that is traditionally used to show changes to documents so that what is "new" and what is being removed cannot be determined, making cross-checking for changes tedious if not impossible.

PNN has also learned that the way leadership of the "new" council was determined was also done on the sly in an "informal" meeting that was not even announced much less agendaed. Although an OIP opinion exists saying these organizational meetings may fall under a "loophole" in the Sunshine Law, that determination was based on a year when there was a majority of new council members. There are five returning members this year.

According to OIP Opinion 02-11 11/14/02 on "Meetings of Councilmembers Who Have Not Yet Officially Taken Office to Discuss Selection of Officers" although the "short answer" to the question of "(w)hether members of county councils are subject to part I of chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes ("Sunshine Law"), prior to officially taking office when they meet to discuss selection of officers" was "No." the full opinion says that "(t)he OIP is of the opinion that it is not illegal for a quorum of newly elected members of a council to meet privately to discuss selection of officers prior to commencement of their terms of office. The OIP also believes, however, that a loophole in the Sunshine Law allows such an assemblage, which would be prohibited after councilmembers officially take office. Therefore, for the reasons set forth below, the OIP STRONGLY RECOMMENDS (emphasis in bold in original) that a quorum of members-elect of a board not assemble privately prior to officially taking office to discuss selection of board officers, in keeping with the spirit of the Sunshine Law_ The OIP also notes that this issue can be brought before the Legislature for clarification."

The council has always announced and agendaed these meeting even since the opinion was issued in 2002.

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