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Mayoral advisory committee violates state Sunshine Law

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Mayoral advisory committee violates state Sunshine Law

  • Hawaii’s Office of Information Practices cited a city advisory committee for conducting voting through e-mail and signing statements of agreement prior to meetings, both in violation of the state Sunshine Law.

Jan. 19, 2004 — An opinion letter from Hawaii’s Office of Information Practices Jan. 13 cited a mayoral advisory committee in Honolulu for two violations of the state’s open meetings laws.

In a letter to committee members Todd Apo and Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R-Kailua), the OIP said the group broke the state open meetings law when members signed a statement prior to a meeting as to how they would vote on an issue. The committee later conducted another vote via e-mail.

The OIP issues opinions on the state’s open government laws but lacks any power to enforce its recommendations.

The 15-person Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Landfill Siting recommended four sites for a proposed landfill, but refused to consider expanding Waimanalo Gulch, a current landfill. According to the OIP’s investigation, some committee members signed a statement of agreement that they would not vote for expanding Waimanalo. That led to the resignation of four committee members, including Thielen.

The e-mail voting violation took place when committee members sought to set a minimum standard of 15 years of use for all landfill sites. The e-mail vote was not in accord with the state Sunshine Law because the statute requires deliberations and decision-making to take place in open meetings.

According to a Jan. 14 story in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, OIP Director Leslie Kondo called on the committee to conduct an open forum debate as a possible remedy to the violations. He said neither committee members nor city staff who worked with them understood that the Sunshine Law applied to them. The OIP offers Sunshine Law training, but none of the committee members had ever taken part.

(OIP Letter No. 04-01, Jan. 13, 2004) AB

© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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