S Memo 18-2

Posted on Apr 23, 2018 in Informal Opinions - Sunshine Law

S Memo 18-02
April 23, 2018
Private Conversation Prior to Open Meeting

Requester asked for an investigation into whether the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board (Board) violated the Sunshine Law when Board allegedly held an improper private conversation regarding an agenda item prior to the start of its meeting held on April 22, 2015 (Meeting).  Specifically, Requester complained that Board’s Meeting started late so that the Chair could discuss an item on the agenda and he provided an edited video of the Meeting.

On behalf of the Board, the Chair did not deny holding a private conversation with other Board members regarding an agenda item prior to the start of its Meeting.  Rather, she explained that she had discussed the logistical arrangements surrounding this agenda item, specifically, who would be presenting a City Council certificate and lei to the widow of a deceased Board member.  It is OIP’s understanding that the Chair did not engage in extensive discussion with other members and that nothing other than logistical arrangements was discussed.

Because the conversation at issue here was conducted by board members outside of and prior to the Meeting, OIP considered whether it concerned board business of the Board.  OIP has defined “board business,” or interchangeably “official business,” as “matters over which the board has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power that are currently before the board or that are reasonably anticipated to come before the board in the foreseeable future for discussion, deliberation, and action.”  OIP Op. Ltr. No. 05-15 at 1, n.1; see also OIP Op. Ltr. No. 04-01 at 7, n.7 (defining “official business” as “matter[s] over which . . . [a] board has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.  Such matters are those that are before a board or are reasonably expected to come before a board.”).  OIP has previously noted that purely administrative matters would not be considered “board business.”  OIP Op. Ltr. No. 05-02 at 4; see also OIP Op. Ltr. No. 04-01 at 10.

In this instance, based upon OIP’s review of Requester’s video and the Chair’s explanation, OIP found that the logistical arrangements for the award ceremony were not a matter that the Board, as a board, would be considering or taking action on.  Rather, the logistical arrangements were administrative details related to the substantive matter the Board planned to consider, specifically, the proposed award of a Certificate of Appreciation to a deceased Board member.  OIP, therefore, concluded that the logistical arrangements were not board business, and there was no improper discussion, deliberation, or decision making of board business outside of a noticed meeting in violation of the Sunshine Law.