S Memo 17-2

Posted on Nov 21, 2016 in Informal Opinions - Sunshine Law

S Memo 17-2
November 21, 2016
Requiring ID from Public Meeting Attendees

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission (HCRC), which usually meets in a secured building, asked OIP whether it could require members of the public to present identification and sign in before entering the secured building to attend a Sunshine Law meeting.

Following the majority of states that have weighed in on this issue either through statute or administrative opinion, OIP concluded that a requirement for members of the public to identify themselves as a precondition of access to a public meeting would be contrary to the Sunshine Law’s “all persons” standard, as it would have the effect of excluding those persons who did not have a driver’s license or other acceptable proof of personal identification on hand or who preferred to remain anonymous.  Thus, any requirement that members of the public show proof of personal identification to a security guard prior to attending a meeting is not consistent with the Sunshine Law’s open meeting requirement.  However, OIP noted that other security procedures such as a metal detector or a bag search may not violate open meetings laws.

It is ultimately up to a board to ensure that its meetings are held at a location where members of the public will be freely admitted.  OIP advised the HCRC that the most straightforward option is to hold its public meetings in a building that does not require all members of the public entering the building to present identification.  If the HCRC prefers to hold its meetings in a secured building, however, OIP recommended several options for ensuring compliance with the Sunshine Law.  First, if there are non-secured portions of the building available for use, the HCRC can hold its public meetings only in those non-secured portions of the building, thus obviating the need to make special arrangements with building security.  Failing that, for a meeting held in the secured area, the HCRC could inform building security guards when a public meeting will be held and instruct the guards to admit anyone who says he or she is going to the public meeting and declines to show identification, or alternatively to escort those who decline to show identification to the meeting room. So long as the guard admits those who say they are going to the public meeting without requiring them to show identification, OIP does not believe that that a security guard’s initial request for identification, by itself, would violate the Sunshine Law.