Posted on Jul 28, 2008 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 08-02
July 28, 2008
Boards Created by Resolution

A Council member asked OIP for an advisory opinion as to whether a task panel created by council resolution falls within the definition of “board” under the Sunshine Law. OIP opined that under a plain reading of the Sunshine Law’s definition of “board,” a task panel or other body created by or pursuant to a “resolution” of county (or state) government generally does not fall within that definition.

However, OIP believes that a task panel or other body created by a Sunshine Law board is subject to the Sunshine Law where circumstances show that, by delegation of authority from that board, the panel is in fact acting in place of that board on a matter that is the official business of the board. These circumstances must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

OIP reasoned that allowing a subordinate group of the Council to meet in private to act on council business, which would otherwise be determined at an open Council meeting, would contravene the Sunshine Law’s policy and intent to allow the public to participate in the Council’s formation of public policy.

This question initially arose in the context of the City Mass Transit Technical Expert Panel created by Honolulu City Council resolution. OIP did not specifically opine on the Panel because the Panel voluntarily complied with the Sunshine Law.

However, OIP did use the Panel as an example of an instance in which a resolution created panel would be subject to the Sunshine Law because the resolution creating the panel delegated the Council’s authority to make the final selection of a fixed guideway system. OIP stated that the public had a preponderant interest in and expectation to be officially heard early in the process on a Council decision as important and far reaching as the choice of Honolulu’s mass transit system.

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