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Spring 2006

President's Message: Acting Locally, Working Globally (Sue Irvine)
CEDAW - What is it and why should you care? (JoAnn Maruoka)
Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (HCALG) (Grace Furukawa)
Eight groups file suit to end secret meetings
Increased public awareness for public funding... (Laure Dillon)
Welfare for Politicians OR Restoring Power to Voters? (Jean Aoki)
Local Reports - Honolulu (Jackie Parnell)
Local Reports - Maui (Joshua Cooper)
Local Reports - Kauai (Carol Bain)
Local Reports - Hawaii (Marianna Scheffer)

Eight groups file suit to end secret meetings

On October 3, eight open government and journalists organizations filed a lawsuit in circuit court seeking to stop the Honolulu City Council from holding secret one-on-one meetings on council business. The plaintiffs are asking the court to enforce an August 4th Office of Information Practices ruling that this practice violates the state Sunshine Law. The complaint alleges that the Honolulu City Council conducted a series of secret meetings, limited to two council members each, to discuss and reach preliminary agreement on Resolution No. 05243 which was adopted on July 13, 2005. The plaintiffs ask the court to rule that this practice is illegal.

Attorneys Jeffrey Portnoy and Elijah Yip of the Cades Schutte law firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs in the circuit court of the First Judicial Circuit. Portnoy said, "It is clear that a series of secret one-on-one meetings that reaches a rolling quorum violates the intent and spirit of Hawai'i's open meetings law." The group of plaintiffs includes the Right To Know Committee, League of Women Voters of Hawai'i, Citizen Voice, Hawai'i Pro-Democracy Initiative, Big Island Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists-Hawai'i Chapter, SPJ University of Hawai'i Chapter, and Honolulu Community-Media Council.

Speaking for the plaintiffs group, Stirling Morita, FOI Committee chair for the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, said "We hope this suit will signal to government that this type of backroom vote-gathering will not be tolerated. Our fear is that this will become a widespread practice shutting out the public from discussions and decisions on issues." "Too bad this lawsuit is necessary," according to journalism educator Beverly Keever, Right To Know Chair. "Gov. Linda Lingle, who campaigned on restoring public trust in government, should have instructed her attorney general to enforce the Sunshine Law as the Office of Information Practices correctly interpreted it so that the public's business would be conducted in meetings open to the public." Sue Irvine, president of the League of Women Voters of Hawai'I, said, "When a government board skirts around the sunshine law, the attorney general or OIP should stop it. Citizens shouldn't have to do government's job. If it weren't for Messrs. Portnoy and Yip of Cades Schutte providing their services, we wouldn't be able to take legal action."

On October 24, the City filed a Motion to Dismiss the suit. The hearing on the motion is set for December 16, 2005. Our opposition is due on December 8. As expected, the City argued that the action is moot because the reorganization procedure has been amended, and the Council has since reorganized again under the new procedure. The City also argues the merits of the lawsuit, contending that our interpretation of the Sunshine Law is flawed.

On October 28, 2005 Mr. Portnoy wrote that he would respond to the Council's motion to dismiss and file a motion for summary judgment by December 8th.

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