SUNSHINE LAW POINTERS FOR NEWLY ELECTED PUBLIC OFFICIALSPosted on Nov 27, 2020 in Featured, What's New
The state Office of Information Practices (OIP) congratulates all newly elected and reelected members of Hawaii’s Legislature, county Councils, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA)! This also seems to be an appropriate time to point out that UIPA and Sunshine Law training is available on OIP’s website, along with an archive of past What’s New articles.
OIP’s November 22, 2019 What’s New article may be of particular interest to boards that are subject to the Sunshine Law, such as the county Councils and OHA. That article summarized OIP’s S Memo 20-1 regarding the selection of leaders for the Kauai County Council’s upcoming term. In 2019, all seven of newly elected, but not yet sworn in, members of the Kauai County Council, four of whom were incumbents, discussed leadership for the upcoming term in a publicly noticed meeting held after the general election but before they were sworn in. Although the councilmembers-elect had not been sworn in and thus were not yet subject to the Sunshine Law, they took OIP’s recommendation to embrace the spirit of the law and met in a publicly noticed, rather than private, meeting to discuss the selection of Council officers. Thus, OIP concluded that these members-elect did not violate the Sunshine Law when they met publicly to discuss and take “straw votes” on leadership for the upcoming term before they were sworn in for the upcoming term of office and became subject to the Sunshine Law for that term.
S Memo 20-1 was based on OIP’s Opinion Letter No. 02-11, which recognized that due to a loophole in the Sunshine Law, it is not illegal for a quorum of newly elected members of a council to meet privately to discuss selection of officers before commencement of their terms of office. In that formal opinion, however, OIP had strongly recommended that a quorum of members-elect of a board not assemble privately prior to officially taking office to discuss selection of board officers, in keeping with the spirit of the Sunshine Law. The Kauai County Council appropriately followed this recommendation in S Memo 20-1.
While the full text of formal opinions are posted on OIP’s formal opinions page, only summaries are posted of memorandum opinions. If you want to receive the full text of S Memo 20-1 that was emailed with this article, or if you would like to be added to OIP’s email list to directly receive What’s New articles, please email your name, request, and email address to [email protected].