Posted on May 2, 2003 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 03-06
May 2, 2003
Electronic Transmission of Testimony

The OIP was asked whether a board violated the Sunshine Law by not accepting e-mail testimony. The OIP concluded that the Sunshine Law must be liberally construed to afford the public the opportunity to submit written testimony. Given the widespread use of e-mail and facsimile transmission, where possible, boards must allow testimony to be submitted by those means.

In addition, the Sunshine Law does not require that the word “testimony” be included in written submissions concerning agenda items. Where a written submission relates to a matter on a board’s agenda and reasonably appears to have been intended for consideration by the board, the board should consider the submission to be written testimony and distribute copies of the testimony to each board member.

The testimony in question related to a request before the board to revise a permit to allow the transfer of a male orangutan named Rusti from the Honolulu Zoo to a temporary facility at Kualoa Ranch, Kaneohe, pending completion of a planned facility at Kualoa Ranch.

[Note: On May 20, the requester filed suit in Circuit Court, as authorized by section 92-11, Hawaii Revised Statutes, asking the court to void the board’s decision to allow Rusti to be transferred to Kualoa Ranch.]

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