S Memo 10-5

Posted on Dec 18, 2009 in Informal Opinions - Sunshine Law

S Memo 10-5
December 18, 2009
Serial Discussion of Board Leadership

Requesters asked OIP whether a series of discussions about leadership among Hawaii County Council members, prior to the meeting held June 16, 2009, violated the Sunshine Law.

OIP found that a majority of Hawaii County Council members discussed leadership through a series of interconnected conversations. This serial discussion was not permitted by, and thus violated, the Sunshine Law.

The Sunshine Law limits the number of board members who may privately discuss board leadership to a number less than a quorum. HRS § 92-2.5(c). A board cannot by serial communications avoid this limitation. Right to Know Committee v. City Council, City and County of Honolulu, 117 Haw. 1, 12-13 (Haw. App. 2007); HRS § 92-2.5(c); OIP Op. Ltr. No. 05-15. Because a majority of the Council’s members were involved in the serial discussion of board leadership, the discussion was not permitted under the Sunshine Law. See id.

OIP believes that the involvement of a majority of Council members in the serial discussion occurred because the members were not mindful to the possibility of serial communications, rather than because of a deliberate strategy to circumvent the Sunshine Law’s requirements.