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. 🙂 http://tinyurl.com/awbh2lw