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Big Isle committee rejects Sunshine Law change

November 7, 2013
The Associated Press

KAILUA-KONA (AP) - The Big Island's council is poised to block an attempt to change Hawaii's open meetings law.

A Hawaii County Council committee rejected a proposal from Maui County to create an exemption to the Sunshine Law, allowing more than two council members to meet without having to take minutes or make reports on the discussion, as long as meetings are open to the public.

Hawaii County will be the only county to reject the bill, meaning it will be removed from a package of initiatives the Hawaii State Association of Counties will present to the state Legislature for its upcoming 2014 session, West Hawaii Today reported Wednesday.

All four counties must approve a bill for it to be sent to the Legislature.

"You can essentially deliberate. You can have a debate," said Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida, explaining the bill to council members. "You can go there and debate like it's a council meeting."

The measure would "move county government to the closed and darkened back room," warned Marianna Scheffer, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii County.

"The public cannot truly know how their elected representatives think and act if issues are discussed, dissension is silenced and votes are counted in private," Scheffer said.

The Maui County Council said allowing council members to discuss issues outside noticed public meetings is meant to help the council be more "well-informed" and "responsive."

"This bill is poorly written," South Kona/Kau Councilwoman Brenda Ford said. "It is so wide open that it can be abused at any hour of any day."



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