Opinion Letter No. 01-01
April 9, 2001
Sunshine Law Applied to Neighborhood Vision Teams
In the Office of Information Practices' Opinion Letter
No. 01-01, the OIP construed an ambiguity in
the Sunshine Law liberally to carry out the Sunshine Law’s
purpose of ensuring that government
processes remain open to the public. The Sunshine Law, or open meetings
law, is found in Part I of
chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes.
The OIP concluded that the neighborhood Vision Teams, created by
the Mayor for the City and
County of Honolulu, could be considered "boards" covered
by the Sunshine Law, and as such should
provide public notice and keep minutes of their meetings. However,
given the peculiar nature of
membership in a Vision Team, participants are Vision Team "members"
only when they are actually
attending a Vision Team meeting. For this reason, when outside of
the Vision Team meetings, Vision
Team members are not required to restrict their interactions or
otherwise act as board members.
The OIP also concluded that Neighborhood Board members, who are
elected and are clearly subject
to the Sunshine Law, are permissibly restricted in their ability
to attend and participate in Vision Team
meetings where official business of the Neighborhood Board is discussed.
To resolve concerns about
the inability of Neighborhood Board members to participate in Vision
Team meetings and thus gather
information about issues of concern to the Neighborhood Boards,
the OIP recommended that the
Neighborhood Boards jointly notice their meetings with the relevant
Vision Team meetings.
The OIP opined that if a Vision Team meeting is not noticed as a
Neighborhood Board meeting, and
official Neighborhood Board business is discussed there, two or
more members of a particular
Neighborhood Board may attend the meeting only through a "permitted
interaction" provided by the
Sunshine Law. Specifically, the Neighborhood Board members should
be assigned pursuant to
section 92-2.5(b)(1) and (2), Hawaii Revised Statutes, and only
less than the number of members that
constitutes a quorum of the Neighborhood Board may attend.
The OIP recommended that if two or more Neighborhood Board members
attend a Vision Team
meeting in their individual capacities (i.e., they have not been
"assigned," and the meeting was not
noticed as a Neighborhood Board meeting) and matters are raised
that are pending or are likely to
come before their board, they should, as a matter of caution, excuse
themselves from the meeting, or
at least refrain from commenting.