Posted on Jul 24, 2015 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. F16-01
July 24, 2015
Councilmember Attendance at
Kula Community Association Meeting

Boards are required to conduct their board business in open meetings under the Sunshine Law, subject to a few exceptions.  A member of the public (Requester) complained that three members of the Maui County Council (Council) attended the Kula Community Association (KCA) Community Meeting in violation of the Sunshine Law.  OIP found their attendance was not a violation because it qualified as permitted interaction under section 92 2.5(e), HRS, which allows less than a quorum of a board to attend an informational meeting of another entity.

Section 92 2.5(e), HRS, contains several components, and the three Councilmembers complied with all of them.  First, less than a quorum of the Council attended the Community Meeting.  Also, the Community Meeting was not “specifically and exclusively organized for or directed toward members of the [Council.]”  And, the incident complained of was the type of situation that section 92-2.5(e), HRS, was intended to allow.  OIP thus concluded that the three Councilmembers were permitted under section 92-2.5(e), HRS, to attend and to participate in discussions about Council business during the Community Meeting, so long as no commitment to vote was made or sought, and there was no evidence that any commitment to vote was made or sought.

Section 92-2.5(e), HRS, also requires that, at the next meeting after an informational meeting permitted interaction, the board members report their attendance and the matters discussed that related to board business at the informational meeting.  The Council held a meeting subsequent to the Community Meeting, during which a Councilmember who attended the Community Meeting read her written report to the Council on her attendance with the two other Councilmembers.  Having found that the three Councilmembers at the Community Meeting followed all the provisions of section 92 2.5(e), HRS, including the report requirement, OIP concluded that their attendance was in compliance with the Sunshine Law.

The Councilmembers’ report of their attendance at the Community Meeting was listed on the agenda for the Council’s subsequent March 1, 2013, meeting in accordance with the Sunshine Law’s notice provisions in section 92-7, HRS.  Requester complained that report was not properly noticed because it was under the “Communications” section of the agenda when it should have been under another section of the agenda listing items for the Council’s deliberation; or that the Council should have considered a motion to waive its rules to allow for deliberation on this item – as the Council does not customarily consider or take action on “communication” items.  OIP previously opined that the fact that an item is on an agenda indicates that it is “before” the board and is business of that board, which may or may not include deliberation and decision making by that board.  The Councilmember report was listed on the March 1 agenda, and OIP found no violation of the Sunshine Law’s notice requirements.

Requester further asserted that, because section 92 2.5(e), HRS, requires members who attend an informational briefing to “report” back to the Council, this reporting requirement thereafter requires deliberation by the full board of the informational meeting report.  Section 92-2.5(e), HRS, contains no requirement that a board consider or take action on a report provided thereunder.

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