2 more on Kauai sue for Council documents
The residents allege violation of the Sunshine Law
LIHUE » Two more Kauai residents have filed suit against the Kauai County Council for failing to disclose meeting minutes from sessions that are closed to the public.
They say the public has a right to those minutes, and the county has both dragged its feet releasing them and ignored a state agency which told the county to release them.
Dr. Raymond Chuan and Walter Lewis, self-described "nitpickers" of the council, were the third such group to file suit against the county for failure to disclose minutes of various Council meetings held in the past few years.
The lawsuit alleges the county violated the Sunshine Law, the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), and the Kauai Charter after Lewis and Chuan requested the minutes of all executive sessions held from January 2002 until June 10, 2005, or roughly 200 meetings.
Lewis said he and Chuan requested the minutes in June to find out whether the Council has violated the Sunshine Law repeatedly by holding meetings in private that should have been made public.
"We feel the county is in a pattern of disregard of its legal obligations," Lewis said.
Instead of turning the minutes over, however, the county clerk, the Council, and the county attorney, according to Chuan's and Lewis' lawsuit, have refused to answer their requests in a timely fashion, which violates the UIPA. According to the UIPA, the county clerk must release the minutes of the meeting if they do not meet certain requirements, such as the information involves personnel or current lawsuits, which would open the county to more liability.
The county attorney's office, when asked for comment, said only that they had been served summons on the suit. "We're reviewing the pleading and we have no comment at this time."
The suit contends that despite repeated requests to do so, the county clerk refused to pass along the untouched records to the Office of Information Practices, the office created to regulate record requests. And when the OIP told the county attorney that they must release the records to the public, they refused to do so.
After two months, the county did say they would provide Chuan and Lewis with the records, portions of which had been blacked out, if they paid $2,740 in charges for "searching, review and segregation of records," and $146.75 in copying fees, the suit continued.
When the OIP replied that they would like to know why certain portions were redacted, the county attorney refused to answer.
It's far from the first time, though, that the county and the OIP has butted heads.
The Council, county attorney, and county clerk are already suing the OIP over the fate of minutes from a January executive session of the Council. And that session has led Kauai Police Commission Chair Michael Ching to sue the county for the release of those records.
Former Honolulu Star-Bulletin journalist Anthony Sommer is also suing the county for the release of executive session minutes from a Council meeting in 2003. A trial is expected early next year.
Chuan's and Lewis' suit also requests the release of those meetings currently under litigation.