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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 12, 2003

Bill requires lessons on meetings law

Advertiser Staff

A city councilman wants members of city boards and commissions to undergo mandatory training on the sunshine law.

"Hopefully, the public feels that this is another step in letting the sunshine in," Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz said.

Advertiser library photo • Jan. 2, 2003

After attending sunshine law training with the other council members, City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz has introduced a bill to make similar training sessions mandatory for everyone serving on city boards, commissions and committees bound by the open meetings law.

"Hopefully, the public feels that this is another step in letting the sunshine in," Dela Cruz said.

Dela Cruz said misconceptions about the state's open meetings law has led to unintentional violations by members of the city's various boards and commissions.

For example, some board members may not realize that e-mailing the other members about board business violates the law, but attending a social gathering with other members does not.

He also hopes that mandatory training will reduce the number of complaints and concerns the public has because board members will now be aware of what the law requires.

Bill 40 will be heard by the full Council on July 2. It would require a training program that covers such topics as the purpose of the sunshine law, the requirements for notices, agendas, minutes and taking testimony, permitted and prohibited interactions among board members and permissible grounds for holding a closed meeting.

Office of Information Practices Director Les Kondo said he had some concerns about whether his staff would be able to offer training frequently enough for new members within the three months of taking office, but otherwise he applauds the effort. "I think the intent of the bill is terrific," he said.

Kondo has already heard many questions on sunshine issues, many involving interaction among board members. In many cases, the members err on the side of caution, giving public notice for social events or avoiding gatherings of more than two board members even if business would not be discussed.

"It illustrates that there's a definite misunderstanding of the sunshine law," Kondo said. "I think it's very important to get the training."