POSTED: 7 November 2005 - 9:00am

Is it sunset for the Sunshine Law?

by Andy Parks on 7 November 2005

Mr. Les Kondo, Director
Hawai`i State Office of Information Practices (OIP)

Dear Mr. Kondo,
This past Thursday, November 3, 2005, the following item appeared on the
agenda of the Kaua`i County Council.

“C 2005-379 Communication (10/27/2005) from James Kunane Tokioka, Vice
Chair and Hawai`i State Association of Counties (HSAC) Representative, transmitting for Council consideration, legislative proposals for possible inclusion in the 2006 HSAC Legislative Package.”

This agenda item included potential decision-making to endorse two measures, the first to support a State Bill to exempt the four county council’s in Hawai`i from the provisions of HRS 92, the Sunshine law, and a second to support eliminating the sunset date from a county liability bill passed two years ago by the state legislature.

Neither of these items were listed on the agenda. Vice Chair James Tokioka who is also the chief HSAC representative from Kaua`i, claimed that the agenda as written was sufficient because the two items appear in the communication itself.

Tokioka also acknowledged that one would have to specially request and come to the County Council offices to pick up the communication, if someone thought to question it in the first place because HRS 92 requires all matters for consideration to be specifically listed on the agenda in detail sufficient to give notice to the public.

Tokioka also said they (the Council) “do it all the time” citing the budget process as an example and said that the item on the agenda might be “too long” if they added a description of the two items, although Communication C-2005-379 is one of the shorter on the agenda, most being at least twice as long.

At the meeting the liability resolution was in fact approved by the Council by a vote of 7-0 after being separated from the Sunshine provision which was deferred and the F/IGR Committee meeting, this Wednesday 11/9 at 9:00am will take it up when the administration is scheduled to discuss the HSAC package.

I might also note that, compounding the lack of information on the actual agenda, the word “approve” was never used on the agenda. Only the word “consider” was used which, while allowing for decision making, might sound to some like no matters were to be voted upon.

The only people who knew the Sunshine Law exemption would be on the agenda, were those who read a somewhat muddled newspaper account in Wednesday
11/5 “Garden Island” newspaper saying the Council would be dealing with an “ordinance” to exempt the Council from the Sunshine law the next day, or the read the Honolulu Advertiser of the same day which also mentioned that the matter would be taken up by the Kaua`i County Council in a story about how each island’s County Council had to approve it for it to be part of the HSAC request package, as the Honolulu Council already has.

Personally I did not know that this would be discussed either until I read the newspapers and I receive the agenda each week via email and also check the web site. I attend many council meetings – although not all - and have been involved with this issue for many years, something which every council member- including Mr. Tokioka and Chair Kaipo Asing and County Clerk Peter Nakamura know well.

I believe the evidence is overwhelming that this is an intentional attempt to hide business from the public and try to slip a vote past the public with no discussion or public debate and that an examination of the evidence will show this to be a willful violation as described in HRS 92-13.

There were also many items taken out of order at the meeting before the HSAC measure, delaying the measure until over five hours into the meeting. Many who came to address the matter had to leave. I eventually assured the chair I would stay until the issue was taken up to testify.

It was all very funny to the councilpersons who laughed many times during recesses over delaying items until people left as others will certainly attest.

I am writing this not just as a complaint to the OIP but I am asking for the OIP to immediately notify the Council that this agenda has violated the Sunshine law and ask the Attorney General to look at the facts and determine if there was a deliberate willful attempt to hide a vote from the public and violate the law.

I am also sending you a video tape of that portion of the meeting which you should received by Tuesday morning. You might be interested in some of the statements made by the council as they pertain to the current Council v. OIP litigation and you personally.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Fell free to contact me on this or any matter at or 808-332-7878

Andy Parx
Lawa`i HI

Kaua`i County Clerk Peter Nakamura
Members of the Kaua`i County Council
Kauai County Attorney Lani Nakazawa
The Garden Island Newspaper
Honolulu Advertiser Kaua`i correspondent Jan Tenbruggencate
Honolulu Star Bulletin correspondent Tom Finnegan