01-01Posted on Apr 9, 2001 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Letter No. 01-01
April 9, 2001
Sunshine Law Applied to Neighborhood Vision Teams
In the Office of Information Practices’ Opinion Letter No. 01-01, the OIP construed an ambiguity in the Sunshine Law liberally to carry out the Sunshine Law’s purpose of ensuring that government processes remain open to the public. The Sunshine Law, or open meetings law, is found in Part I of chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes.
The OIP concluded that the neighborhood Vision Teams, created by the Mayor for the City and County of Honolulu, could be considered “boards” covered by the Sunshine Law, and as such should provide public notice and keep minutes of their meetings. However, given the peculiar nature of membership in a Vision Team, participants are Vision Team “members” only when they are actually attending a Vision Team meeting. For this reason, when outside of the Vision Team meetings, Vision Team members are not required to restrict their interactions or otherwise act as board members.
The OIP also concluded that Neighborhood Board members, who are elected and are clearly subject to the Sunshine Law, are permissibly restricted in their ability to attend and participate in Vision Team meetings where official business of the Neighborhood Board is discussed. To resolve concerns about the inability of Neighborhood Board members to participate in Vision Team meetings and thus gather information about issues of concern to the Neighborhood Boards, the OIP recommended that the Neighborhood Boards jointly notice their meetings with the relevant Vision Team meetings.
The OIP opined that if a Vision Team meeting is not noticed as a Neighborhood Board meeting, and official Neighborhood Board business is discussed there, two or more members of a particular Neighborhood Board may attend the meeting only through a “permitted interaction” provided by the Sunshine Law. Specifically, the Neighborhood Board members should be assigned pursuant to section 92-2.5(b)(1) and (2), Hawaii Revised Statutes, and only less than the number of members that constitutes a quorum of the Neighborhood Board may attend.
The OIP recommended that if two or more Neighborhood Board members attend a Vision Team meeting in their individual capacities (i.e., they have not been “assigned,” and the meeting was not noticed as a Neighborhood Board meeting) and matters are raised that are pending or are likely to come before their board, they should, as a matter of caution, excuse themselves from the meeting, or at least refrain from commenting.