02-11Posted on Nov 14, 2002 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Letter No. 02-11
November 14, 2002
Meetings of Councilmembers Who Have Not Yet Officially Taken Office to Discuss Selection of Officers
Members of county councils are not subject to the Sunshine Law prior to officially taking office when they meet to discuss selection of officers. In accordance with section 11-155, Hawaii Revised Statutes, and the State Constitution, the counties have each set dates later than the official close of the polls on election day for councilmembers’ terms of office to commence. Once a councilmember’s term of office officially begins under the charter, he or she becomes subject to the Sunshine Law.
Section 92-2.5(c), Hawaii Revised Statutes, states “[d]iscussions between two or more members of a board, but less than the number of members which would constitute a quorum for the board, concerning the selection of the board’s officers may be conducted in private without limitation or subsequent reporting.” Thus, less than a quorum of a board may meet privately and without limitation or subsequent reporting to discuss selection of board officers, regardless of whether or not board members have officially taken office. Whether board members have officially taken office is irrelevant, so long as the meeting is restricted to less than the number of members that would constitute a quorum.
It is not illegal for a quorum of newly elected members of a council to meet to discuss selection of officers prior to commencement of their terms of office. However, a loophole in the Sunshine Law allows such an assemblage, which would be prohibited after councilmembers officially take office. Therefore, the OIP strongly recommends that a quorum of members-elect of a board not assemble prior to officially taking office to discuss selection of board officers, in keeping with the spirit of the Sunshine Law.