F19-03Posted on Dec 12, 2018 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Ltr. No. F19-03
December 12, 2018
Executive Sessions and Communications Outside a Meeting
OIP was asked whether the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) properly held two executive sessions to discuss ongoing negotiations for prospective contracts either under the Sunshine Law or one of the HTA-specific executive session purposes set out in section 201B-4(a)(2), HRS; whether HTA properly held an executive session to discuss its annual budget either under the Sunshine Law or for one of the HTA-specific executive session purposes set out in section 201B‑4(a)(2), HRS; and whether all communications among HTA members outside HTA meetings complied with the Sunshine Law.
On the first question, OIP concluded that the two executive sessions in which HTA discussed ongoing negotiations for prospective contracts were justified under the HTA-specific executive session purpose allowing it to hold a closed meeting to discuss information whose confidentiality is necessary to protect Hawaii’s competitive advantage as a visitor destination. See HRS §§ 92-5 (2012) and 201B-4(a)(2) (2017).
On the second question, OIP concluded that neither the HTA-specific executive session purpose nor the Sunshine Law’s general purposes allowed HTA to go into executive session to discuss its annual budget. See HRS §§ 92-5 and 201B-4(a)(2).
On the third question, OIP found that in the great majority of written communications it reviewed, either the topic at hand was not HTA’s board business or the discussion fell within one of the Sunshine Law’s permitted interactions allowing discussion of board business outside a board meeting. In one instance, though, OIP concluded that an email from HTA’s chair to its other members was a discussion of board business in violation of the Sunshine Law. See HRS § 92-2.5 (2012). Nevertheless, because the email’s content was background information that could have properly been sent to all members by a nonmember such as an HTA employee, and no further discussion ensued, OIP noted that the public impact of this violation was minimal.