04-01Posted on Jan 13, 2004 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Letter No. 04-01
January 13, 2004
Board Members Discussion of Official Business
Outside of a Duly Noticed Meeting;
A state legislator asked the OIP to investigate the Landfill Selection Committee’s (“Committee”) compliance with the Sunshine Law. The Committee is an advisory board established by the City and County of Honolulu (“City”) to assist in the selection of Oahu’s future landfill. According to the City, the Committee is subject to the Sunshine law. The legislator, who was also a member of the Committee, alleged that, outside of a properly noticed meeting, a Committee member solicited and obtained signatures on documents related to the decision making function of the Committee.
The OIP opined that the general rule is that discussion among board members concerning matters over which the board has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power and that are before or are reasonably expected to come before the board outside of a duly noticed meeting violates the Sunshine Law. However, that is not the case if the discussion is authorized as a permitted interaction under the Sunshine Law. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-2.5 (Supp. 2003).
Upon a review of the record, the OIP noted that members had voted, via e-mail, concerning matters over which the board has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power and that were before or were reasonably expected to come before the board. Section 92-5(b), HRS, states that electronic communications cannot be used to circumvent the spirit or requirements of the Sunshine law or to make a decision upon a matter concerning official board business.
The OIP therefore found that the e-mail violated the Sunshine Law. Nevertheless, the OIP noted that it believes that using e-mail for routine, administrative matters such as scheduling purposes may be permissible under the Sunshine Law.