02-09Posted on Sep 24, 2002 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Letter No. 02-09
September 24, 2002
Actions on Bills and Resolutions Without Notice
A committee of the County Council for the County of Maui (“Maui County Council”), may not act on a proposed bill or resolution that is not specifically mentioned in the meeting agenda. Chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes (“Sunshine Law”) requires that notices and agendas be posted six days prior to meeting dates, and that such agendas list, among other things, all items to be considered at the meeting. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-7(a) (Supp. 2001). Accordingly, items that are not listed on agendas should not be discussed at meetings.
The OIP acknowledges, however, that there may be unforeseen circumstances in which a discussion at a meeting results in the decision to draft a bill or resolution to address an agenda item. So long as there is a sufficient nexus between what was noticed and what the discussed resulted in, there would be no violation of the Sunshine Law. This must be determined on a case-by-case inquiry. This nexus should be reflected in the meeting minutes, and voting on such a bill or resolution should take place at a future meeting that is properly noticed.
An existing or proposed bill or resolution that is already drafted, and which is not specifically listed in an agenda but is discussed at a meeting, would likely violate the Sunshine Law if it could have been foreseen that discussed on the bill or resolution would be had. It is possible that discussed of an existing bill or resolution may be unforeseen prior to the meeting yet still be a natural consequence of the committee’s discussion on a listed agenda item.
Thus, it is possible in some circumstances that the Sunshine Law would not be violated by an unforeseen discussion of an existing bill or resolution, so long as there was a sufficient nexus to what was listed on the agenda. Such a determination must be made on a case-by-case inquiry.