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Winter 2005

President's Message (Sue Irvine)
Maui Will Get Out the Vote (Joshua Cooper & Tamara Horcajo)
Healthcare Task Force Members
Kauai Studies Transportation (Carol Bain)
Informal Discussions Resume
Honolulu League Takes Up Housing (Jackie Parnell)
Task Force Plans Healthcare for All (Jean Aoki)
Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (HCALG) (Grace Furukawa)
New Board of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii
Secrecy Is on the Rise (Carol Bain)
Sex Offender Web Site (Jaurene Judy)
Still Working for Clean Elections (Grace Furukawa)
Revised Position on Initiative and Referendum
From Grumble to Rumble: The Silver Legislature

Secrecy Is on the Rise

The Office of Information Practices (OIP) is writing strong letters to the County of Kauai as the Council and its attorneys are failing to comply with the Sunshine Law and Uniform Information Practices Act. And Kauai County is not the only local government that would prefer not to follow the open meetings and open records laws.

In March 2003, a bill to exempt county councils from the Hawaii open-meetings law apparently died in the state Legislature. The Honolulu City Council had asked for the bill, contending the open-meetings law imposed too rigid restrictions. Civic groups opposed the measure, saying it created too much of a loophole. If passed, a bill like that would "compromise" the public's right to know.

Often, sections of the state "sunshine" law HRS-92 Public Agency Meetings and Records are quoted, in references to good government. Such references generally support the following principles:

  • open meetings (The public may attend without specified permission)
  • Agendas are published early and distributed widely
  • Public is provided opportunity to submit data, views, or arguments, in writing (and reasonable time is allowed for oral discussion), on any agenda item.
  • Open records are made available to public for inspection (with narrowly construed exceptions) within 30 days.
  • Closed meetings, called executive sessions, are allowed but are strictly defined (see HRS92-5 Exceptions);
  • Minutes of executive sessions may be withheld so long as their publication would defeat the lawful purpose of the executive meeting, but no longer. (General rule: when in doubt about what to disclose, err on the side of openness.)

Government secrecy is on the rise, and Kauai County Council has accelerated the frequency of executive sessions. Since taking office in 2004, the council had gone into secret sessions 146 times by the end of July, 2005. During the two years prior, the Council called executive sessions only 42 times. Large non-profit corporations and those who are providing privatized services with state-mandated monies are also resisting compliance with open records by taking OIP to court ('Olelo vs OIP). These cases mean no accountability for millions of dollars for public services. It appears that more agencies, councils, boards are ignoring sunshine laws. Enforcing FIRS-92, OIP is an unsung hero for government accountability and unfortunately, their budget is often cut. Yet a law not vigorously enforced is a paper tiger. You can learn more about OIP at

Most politicians go into office vowing to make government more open. After the election, when it comes time to follow sunshine, those good vows must be remembered. If not remembered by the elected representative, then they must be remembered by the voters.

Carol Bain

[Editor's Note: According to a recent Associated Press report, the same tendency is clearly visible on the part of the federal government. A September 4 article in the Honolulu Advertiser reported "The government is withholding more information than ever from the public and expanding ways of shrouding data. Last year, federal agencies spent a record $148 creating and storing new secrets for each $1 spent declassifying old secrets, a coalition of watchdog groups reported..." The "secrecy report card" was written by Rick Blum and issued by]

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