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HOOSER: Zoom testimony returns to Kaua‘i County Council

Hooray! The Kaua‘i County Council is once again accepting remote public testimony “live” via the internet. Members of the public must sign up via email to testify no later than noon on the day prior to the meeting.

On March 22, 2023, Kaua‘i County became the only county in Hawai‘i in which residents were banned from testifying via Zoom or other remote technology. Here we are 8 months later and Kaua‘i citizens now have that right and privilege restored.

It’s a mystery who exactly ordered the remote testimony to stop and then ordered it to start up again as the item has never been on the council agenda for a public discussion.

The seven individual council members could not have legally discussed this action among themselves because the Sunshine Law forbids any such discussion or decision-making by council members outside of a publicly noticed meeting.

Assuming none of them were willing to break the Sunshine Law, the only option remaining is the council chair must have ordered the March 22 action to prevent Kaua‘i residents from testifying remotely, and then ordered it to start up again recently — without discussing his plans or seeking approval from any of the other council members.

While some may find it hard to believe such a significant action could have occurred without a discussion among the council members, any such discussion would have clearly violated the Sunshine Law Part I of Chapter 92, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes unless it occurred at a publicly posted meeting.

According to “The Sunshine Law Guide” for State and County Boards – 2022:

“(B)oard members are not allowed to discuss board business with each other outside of a meeting, including by telephone or through email or social media. In addition, a board usually cannot consider at a meeting matters that were not included in its published agenda.”

“(B)oard business cannot be discussed in secret. There must be advance notice; public access to the board’s discussions, deliberations, and decisions; opportunity for public testimony; and board minutes.”

“State and county boards that are subject to the Sunshine Law include the county councils.”

If one believes the Sunshine Law was followed then the right to testify remotely was taken away eight months ago unilaterally by the council chair without any discussion among or approval by council members.

Now it has been given back and also presumably unilaterally without any discussion occurring between council members.

Either members of the council discussed this issue privately in advance of the decisions that were made, or they did not.

It’s water under the bridge I suppose, but in the future I’m hopeful these types of decisions will be made in the full light of day with inclusive and robust public discussions, and of course a vote by council members one way or another.

For today, let’s celebrate our regained power to testify remotely, like every other county in Hawai‘i does.

Here’s the basic info to get you started: county council main website: https://www.kauai.gov/Government/Council

Sign up here to be automatically emailed weekly Council meeting agenda and more: https://www.kauai.gov/Government/Council/Webcast-Meetings

It’s easy. Every week a council and committee agenda comes to your desktop via email, and when you see something interesting, you tune in to watch, learn and be entertained, and/or offer testimony (but you must sign up in advance to testify remotely or submit email testimony 24 hours in advance).

Council meetings deal with important county business and can also be enlightening, as in a “I can’t believe they just said that” kind of way.

Please. Sign up for the email notification, watch the meetings, participate, testify, get involved and, yes, have some fun while you’re at it.

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Gary Hooser served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Counci. He presently writes on Hawaii Policy and Politics at www.garyhooser.blog.
Source: The Garden Island

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