Kaua‘i is now the only county in Hawai‘i to prohibit remote interactive conference technology (ICT) testimony by residents. No more Zooming in from Kekaha or Ha‘ena to testify. Nope, you now have to take the day off, drive into Lihu‘e, and sit in the council chambers for who knows how long, so you can present your three minutes of testimony.
This decision was made with zero public input. They simply put out a press release saying in part remote testimony is being canceled because: https://www.kauai.gov/Portals/0/Mayor/PIO/20230316CC.pdf?ver=2023-03-16-114307-850.
“If a connection to the ICT is interrupted or lost, the meeting must be recessed and possibly terminated, which would then void any agenda items that were pending prior to the ICT interruption, resulting in delays necessary to post a new meeting agenda … and would also invalidate the meeting and require a new agenda posting.”
Au contraire! According to “The Sunshine Law” for state and county boards (https://oip.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021-Sunshine-GUIDE.pdf), “The Council’s notice may contain a contingency provision stating … that if the connection is lost for more than 30 minutes, the meeting will be continued to a specific date and time, with the new link for the continued meeting either on the agenda itself or to be provided on the Council’s website.”
Further, “A Council does not need to re-hear or accept new testimony for completed agenda items at the continued meeting. …Councils are authorized to recess … and to reconvene at another date and time to continue and/or complete public testimony, discussion, and decision-making.”
Issued by the Office of the County Clerk, the press release does not say who made the actual decision, nor does it name or quote anyone whatsoever.
According to the charter, the county clerk works for the council.
However, for the council to legally discuss the topic, or make a decision to stop the public from testifying remotely, they must first post a meeting and allow public testimony, per the Sunshine Law, HRS Chapter 92.
The Sunshine Law prohibits discussions on council business between council members outside of a properly noticed meeting. There must be advance notice, public access to the council’s discussions, opportunity for public testimony and council minutes.
Furthermore, council members cannot discuss council business privately between themselves via telephone, text, fax, email, or social media. And, it would be a serial communication contrary to the Sunshine Law for a council member to discuss the same council business with more than one other council member through a series of one-on-one meetings.
Since, in my opinion it’s unlikely members of the Kaua‘i council would break the law, the chairman of the council Melvin Rapozo must have made this decision all by himself without consulting the other council members.
Every other county in the state of Hawai‘i and the entire state Legislature allows citizen testimony via interactive conference technology (ICT). Only Kaua‘i County has taken this opportunity away from its residents. Maui and Hawai‘i County both have had remote testimony systems in place for years.
The chair of the Honolulu council Tommy Waters said in Civil Beat: “Let me be abundantly clear — remote testimony is here to stay. It’s an integral component in ensuring that all individuals can participate in the process without having to worry about the commute … it’s also our kuleana.”
A majority of the council could, if they wanted to, properly schedule and hold a public hearing on this issue, listen to the testimony, and reinstate the public’s right to testify remotely — or not.
If this is important to you, please email all seven council members at email@example.com. Let them know your thoughts and find out theirs.
Gary Hooser is the former vice chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader.
Source: The Garden Island
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