Posted on Mar 23, 2016 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. F16-02
March 23, 2016
Notice of Public Meetings Required

Requester asked whether the Hawaii Public Housing Authority Resident Advisory Board (Board) violated the Sunshine Law by holding its August 9, 2013 meeting (Meeting) without first filing its notice (Notice) at the Office of the Lieutenant Governor (LT GOV) at least six calendar days before the Meeting.

The Sunshine Law requires a board to file its notice at the LT GOV or the appropriate county clerk’s office, and in the board’s office for public inspection, at least six calendar days before the meeting[.]”  HRS § 92-7(b) (2012).  LT GOV’s Policy on Filing Written Public Notice for State Board Meetings Pursuant to Chapter 92, HRS, effective July 14, 2015, allows filings at the LT GOV’s office during regular business hours by mail, in person, or via facsimile, but not by electronic transmission.  For state boards specifically, Executive Memorandum Number 11-11 further requires that the notice be posted on the State Online Calendar “as soon as” the notice is posted at the LT GOV.  The Board’s own administrative rules provide that its “[s]taff shall provide notice of the meetings of the resident advisory board pursuant to the requirements of section 92-7, HRS.”  HAR § 15-181 45 (2002).

OIP found that the Board, as a state board, was required by the Sunshine Law to file its notice at the LT GOV.  Although the Board created the Notice for its Meeting, it informed OIP that the agenda “inadvertently” was not sent to the Lt. Governor’s office as required.  OIP concluded that the Board’s failure to file any notice of its meeting violated the Sunshine Law and thus, should not have been held.

OIP is unable to impose criminal sanctions in Sunshine Law cases.  If it can be proven to a court, however, that a person willfully violated any provisions of the Sunshine Law, then a convicted person may be summarily removed from the board unless otherwise provided by law.  § HRS 92-13 (2012).  Additionally, any final action taken in violation of sections 92-3 and 92-7, HRS, may be voidable upon proof of violation if a suit is commenced in court within 90 days of the action.  HRS § 92-11 (2012).  OIP recommended that the Board prevent future violations by studying the many helpful guides, checklists, quick reviews on problematic issues, and other Sunshine Law training materials on OIP’s website at www.oip.hawaii.gov/training/.

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