CONFERENCE COMMITTEES PASS BILLS TO AMEND SUNSHINE LAW’S LIMITED MEETINGS AND TO INCREASE REPORTING OF POLICE MISCONDUCT

Posted on Apr 24, 2014 in Featured, What's New

The House and Senate conferees yesterday agreed to pass two bills:  HB 2139, HD 1, SD 1, which amends the Sunshine Law’s limited meeting provisions to allow county councils to discuss council business at another board’s or community group’s meeting; and SB 2591, SD 1, HD 1, which requires additional detail in annual reports of police misconduct and lengthens the minimum retention period for police disciplinary records.  

In order to enhance county councilmembers’ ability to communicate with their constituents and to understand community concerns, the conferees on HB 2139, led by Senator Will Espero, Senator Clayton Hee, and Representative Karl Rhoads, agreed to allow any number of county council members to discuss council business as guests of another board or community group where public testimony need not be accepted.  To protect against the potential for abuse of the public’s right to know and participate in the policy making process, the conferees also agreed to include a provision that the new law will sunset on June 30, 2016.  These amendments essentially create a new “guest meeting” form of limited meeting, subject to the same videotaping requirement and ban against decision-making at the meeting.  All limited meetings are subject to the Sunshine Law’s general meeting requirements, except as specifically provided otherwise, and guest meetings are subject to the following additional requirements:           

(1)   The council must provide six-days’ advance notice that it will be attending another board or community group’s meeting, but no agenda is required to be filed by the council as the other group is hosting the meeting; 

(2)  If the host group is a Sunshine Law board, then the host group must comply with the notice, agenda, testimony, minutes, and other requirements of part I, HRS chapter 92; 

(3)  The council can hold no more than one guest meeting per month for any one board or community group; 

(4)   No guest meetings shall be held outside Hawaii; and 

(5)  Guest meetings shall not be used to circumvent the Sunshine Law’s purpose.     

As for SB 2591, the conferees agreed to amend HRS Section 52D-3.5 to require each county police chief to annually report to the Legislature police misconduct incidents that resulted in the suspension or discharge of an officer.  Greater detail than what is currently provided will be required for these reports, including annual updates until resolution of the grievance process.  Moreover, the disciplinary records must be retained for at least 18 months after the final annual report of an incident.  The conferees also agreed to amend HRS Section 92F-14(b)(4) to state that a discharged police officer  has a significant privacy interest in the information regarding his or her misconduct for 90, rather than 30, calendar days after the final written decision in a non-judicial grievance proceeding. 

After the legislative session ends in May and the bills are enacted into law, keep watching for these What’s New articles for any additional guidance that OIP may provide and announcements of new training sessions.  Check for archived copies of What’s New articles that are posted here, or e-mailed upon request. To be added to OIP’s e-mail list, please e-mail oip@hawaii.gov.