COUNCIL CONFIRMS B&C NOMINEES WITHOUT RELEASING APPLICATIONS, REFUSES KAWAHARA DEFERRAL REQUEST
(PNN)The county council continued to flout county charter provisions and state open meeting and records laws last Wednesday in approving two more board and commission (B&C) members despite a request for deferral by Councilperson Lani Kawahara.
Kawahara said that the Office of Board and Commissions (OBC) is currently working on a process for releasing properly redacted applications of prospective B&C members awaiting confirmation but Chair Kaipo Asing refused to allow her to make a motion to defer approval until they can be made available to the public before confirmation as the Office of Information Practices (OIP) has required.
Despite detailed testimony to the contrary from Rob Abrew who has been championing the issue for the past month County Attorney Al Castillo told the council there was no problem with the process and they could go ahead and vote on the confirmations, saying the OIP “are not necessarily right all the time” citing recent court cases won by the county against the OIP.
The OIP is charged by the state with oversight of the state’s open meeting (HRS 92 Section I) and records (HRS 92F) laws.
Kawahara asked Castillo “do you believe we’ve done due diligence in providing the public the information that’s supposed to be made public within a reasonable amount of time... so the public can comment (on nominees)?”
In response Castillo continually referenced “these fine people” awaiting confirmation saying to Kawahara that no violation of law has occurred and that “nothing should give you pause to question the process”.
Agreeing that all the applicants are all “fine people” Kawahara said that wasn’t the point of questioning the process for confirming the almost two dozen applicants that have been recently processed.
“I don’t have any confidence that the public was able to get information they would have needed to make comments on those nominees” she said.
Kawahara did however leave some hope that when the final two nominees come up for confirmation in two weeks the information might be forthcoming saying “I’ve worked with the offices involved (to assure) that this procedure is much clearer in the future.
“I was requesting that we would honor what will be going on in the future” she noted adding “Give and take between the (council and the) public is how we make decisions, not in a vacuum”
Councilmember Tim Bynum said he appreciated Abrew’s work on the matter and Kawahara’s follow-up saying that “good questions were raised” and noted that B&C administrator John Isobe “has already responded” and that “going forward we will have a clarified process” for redacting phone numbers and addresses and releasing the rest of the applications to the public when the agenda is published- as OIP told the council to do back in January 2005.
That opinion led the council to move interviews with prospective B&C members out of executive session and into the public purview although they still refuse to televise those interviews.
Abrew had requested the information contained in the applications - including employment, experience and potential conflicts of interest- in writing on Jan. 12 but had not received a written response as of this morning, well exceeding the 10 day window for response to a record request under the state law.
The matter was brought to light by Abrew after noting that county charter provisions require that no B&C have more than a “bare majority” of members of any particular political party.
It is still unknown if the new process will include that information and how those memberships- or lack thereof- will be confirmed with the parties.
For more background information see previous PNN reports:
Monday, January 11, 2010(PNN) ABREW FILES WRITTEN RECORDS, CLARIFICATION REQUESTS WITH COUNTY CLERK AT OIP’S URGINGFriday, January 8, 2010(PNN) COUNCIL IGNORES, FLOUTS OIP IN CONFIRMING BOARD, COMMISSION MEMBERS