The Bike Path, The Beach And The Sunshine Law

Interesting first week on the Council. Discovered some new interpretations and new twists and turns in Hawaii’s famous Sunshine Law. Yesterday I decided to put into writing to Mayor Carvalho, my objection to the County constructing a concrete pathway directly on to the beach at Wailua (see attached pdf letter below). The Mayor has announced his intent to start construction after the first of the year and so there is some urgency in expressing my opinion on the matter, especially since it is unlikely the Council will address the issue prior to the planned start date. Kauai’s multi-use bike/walking path presently stretches several miles down the coast from Lydgate Park to Kealia and beyond and the County administration is proposing to construct a “temporary” path way made up of concrete slabs, directly on the sand and adjecent to the existing highway. Needless to say the public opposition is loud and clear with reasons extending from possible social and cultural impacts to the certainty of sea-level rise.

So, sans the opportunity to express my concerns in a regular council meeting I drafted a formal letter to the Mayor with the intention of ccing my fellow council-members so that they would be informed of my action. I was promptly made aware that I could not cc my council collegues as that would be a violation of Hawaii’s Sunshine law and might be considered a form of “serial communication”. I argued that I was merely informing the other council-members of my action as a courtesy and was not discussing policy, nor asking for their opinion, nor asking them to take any action whatsoever. Nevertheless, I was told sending the other council-members a copy of my letter to the Mayor was forbidden. Rather than argue the point I acquiesced and agreed not to provide my colleagues with a copy of my letter.

But sadly, the plot now thickens further. Council staff then informed me that it was the established protocol that I transmit my letter to the Mayor “via the Council Chair”. When I asked further about this protocol, I was told it was the established procedure to avoid the Mayor being sent multiple sometimes duplicative requests by various council-members. I then pointed out by sending my letter via the Council Chair, it then precluded me from discussing the issue with any member of the Council other than the Chair because the Sunshine Law forbids “serial communications” between more than two members when discussing policy issues or County business.

“Yes, regretfully this is true”, I was told.

Needless to say, in the interest of time – I sent the letter according to protocol and according to the County Council interpretation of the Sunshine Law. My next letter is to the Office of Information Practices (OIP) to determine if in fact it is against the law for me to cc other members of the Council when I send out such a letter. If so, I guess I will have to just rely on this blog to keep council-members and the entire world, informed of letters that I write. 🙂


About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Bike Path, The Beach And The Sunshine Law

  1. elaine d. says:

    Wow. Absurd.
    Such a deliberate display overt display of following the rules. Wonder whoʻs benefit all that was for.
    Do they have any extra little rules lying around that say anything about blocking items being put on the agenda by members of the public? Just because they donʻt personally agree with something?
    I would guess that they are so used to under-the-table procedures, that theyʻll be forever on their toes now that youʻre going to be a fixture at the council. Probably going to make it difficult for them to function as usual.
    They must be on their ʻbest behaviorʻ from now on. What ever that is?????

  2. Andy Parx says:

    It never fails to amaze me that after years in office, certain councilmembers don’t “get” the Sunshine Law. Why if I didn’t know better I might think they were doing it on purpose and trying to manipulate the law to restrict discussion of matters they don’t want discussed (gee, ya thnk?).

    • elaine d. says:

      You know there actually was a bill that went through the legislature last year to block the sunshine requirements for county councils; I possibly didnʻt get that worded precisely but if and when I have time to dig it up I will.

  3. Lonnie Sykos says:

    Thank you Gary – on Kauai, the one thing the Sunshine law guarantees is there ain’t no sunshine.

  4. elaine d. says:

    Hi Gary,
    I sincerely hope you continue to do what you do with respect to keeping the public informed. I am reassured by the fact that you are not a newbie to the government arena and have continued to maintain your MO. The newbie would have lost all his spit and fire by now and succumbed to SOPs.
    And actually, the way you hold office is the way it is SUPPOSED TO BE DONE. Too bad your colleagues are so easily persuaded and mediocre. They only figured out how to get elected, not do the job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s