Lava talk abided Sunshine Law, state says
The County Council meeting on volcano risk was unpublicized
HILO » The Hawaii County Council did not violate the state Sunshine Law when it received an unpublicized briefing behind locked doors on a lava threat last year, the state Office of Information Practices said.
The meeting dealt with lava flows that threatened to cut Highway 130, isolating roughly 10,000 people. The threat started in July and ended in November.
The OIP issued the opinion in response to a complaint by the Big Island Press Club, which said the law requires all "discussions" by the Council to be public.
In the opinion released Thursday, the OIP said the Council was not bound by the law during the Aug. 22 briefing because the meeting was not regulated by the law.
To be covered by the law, the Council would have to have legislation before it or the likelihood of future legislation, the OIP said. That wasn't likely because the lava threat was not immediate, the OIP said.
In response, Press Club President John Burnett said the opinion violates "public trust."
"The OIP, in its Memorandum Opinion dismissing the Press Club's legitimate concerns involving secrecy surrounding a meeting where the overriding issue was public safety, has dealt a serious blow to openness in government and transparency in social policy," he said.
Mayor Harry Kim, who asked for the lava briefing, has said the unpublicized meeting was "bad judgment" on his part. His corporation counsel, Lincoln Ashida, who had advised that the meeting would be legal, said it would have been wise to avoid the air of secrecy by inviting the press.
Council Chairman Pete Hoffmann said no one won or lost, and, "It's time to move on."