Posted on May 28, 2003 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 03-07
May 28, 2003
Voting in Executive Meetings

Boards subject to the Sunshine Law may vote in executive meetings. To require an open vote on matters discussed in executive meetings would, in many circumstances, defeat the purpose of going into an executive meeting.

Committees of boards subject to the Sunshine Law are also subject to the Sunshine Law and may enter executive meetings in accordance with sections 92-4 and 92-5, Hawaii Revised Statutes. Those committees may also vote in executive meetings when necessary to avoid defeating the lawful purpose of the executive meeting.

Boards and committees may vote in a closed meeting on matters involving expenditures of public funds. Hawaii’s Procurement Code states that boards need not comply with the Sunshine Law for certain procurement matters. In other circumstances, boards may vote in closed meetings on expenditures of public funds only when such votes properly fall into one of the exceptions to open meetings at section 92-5, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

Votes taken in executive meetings need not be disclosed to the public because the Sunshine Law allows minutes of executive meetings to be withheld so long as their publication would defeat the lawful purpose of the executive meeting, but no longer. Once disclosure of votes taken in executive meetings does not defeat the lawful purpose of holding an executive meeting, the votes should be disclosed.

Members of the Honolulu Police Commission did not violate the Sunshine Law by not disclosing how they voted on whether to approve a police officer’s request that the City pay for the legal defense of his criminal indictment until the officer and his attorney had been informed of the decision. The Commission’s hearing was a contested case hearing under the Hawaii Administrative Procedures Act, chapter 91, Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HAPA”). Thus, the decision of members of the Commission to delay disclosing how they voted was not subject to the Sunshine Law.

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