Saturday, October 5, 2013


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 loophole.

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 two-at-a-time restriction.

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.

1 comment:

Mauibrad said...

Can't wait to see your write up on the Administration's musical chairs before the 2491 vote...