S Memo 18-1

Posted on Jan 17, 2018 in Informal Opinions - Sunshine Law

S Memo 18-1
January 17, 2018
Council Members’ Attendance at Candidate Forums

OIP was asked for an opinion as to whether a quorum or more of Maui County Council (Council) members could attend candidate forums in compliance with the Sunshine Law.

OIP found that the best option for conducting a candidate forum as part of a Council meeting was for the Council to file notice of a candidate forum as a guest meeting, a form of limited meeting set out in section 92-3.1(b), HRS, rather than to notice and conduct it as a regular Council meeting.  Any number of Council members from less than a quorum up to the full Council could attend a guest meeting candidate forum, and they would not be required to adhere to a set agenda (a guest meeting notice does not have to include an agenda) or to accept public testimony.  HRS § 92-3.1(b).  Thus, the organization hosting the event could retain control of the schedule and the questions, and Council members would have the flexibility to attend or not attend, regardless of how many other Council members will be there.

The only permitted interaction that would allow a quorum or more of Council members to take part in a discussion of board business outside a meeting is section 92-2.5(f), HRS, allowing a board’s members to discuss board business with the Governor without limitation or subsequent reporting, so long as the discussion does not relate to a matter over which the board is exercising its adjudicatory function.  HRS § 92-2.5(f).  The other permitted interactions that could conceivably apply to Council members’ participation in a candidate forum would only allow less than a quorum to attend.  If the number of Council members attending a candidate forum was more than two but less than a quorum, their attendance could fall within section 92‑2.5(e), HRS, which permits less than a quorum of members to attend an informational meeting or presentation and report their attendance, and the Council business that was discussed, at the next Council meeting.  HRS § 92-2.5(e).  Alternatively, no more than two Council members could attend a candidate forum under section 92-2.5(a), HRS, the permitted interaction allowing two members to discuss board business so long as no commitment to vote is made or sought.