Posted on Feb 20, 2004 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 04-04
February 20, 2004
Board Decisionmaking Outside of Open Meetings

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission (“HCRC”) asked the OIP whether it could poll the Commissioners relating to the agency’s legislative testimony.

The OIP advised that the Sunshine Law requires that all decisionmaking take place in meetings open to the public, unless the Sunshine Law authorizes an executive meeting. Where the purpose of calls or e-mails to board members is to receive their position, i.e., their vote, on proposed legislation involving the HCRC’s powers, the voting is in effect a decision concerning official Commission business.

Therefore, the OIP opined that the HCRC staff cannot poll individual Commissioners outside of a properly noticed meeting for the purpose of determining and/or approving the HCRC’s legislative testimony. That does not mean that staff cannot gather information from Commissioners to assist staff in drafting testimony, so long as staff ensures that there is no facilitation of deliberation through staff’s discussion with multiple Commissioners. The OIP also suggested alternatives to assist the HCRC to consult with Commissioners and still follow the Sunshine Law.

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