Gov. Neil Abercrombie has issued an executive memo requiring state boards and commissions to post notices of public meetings online.
The move came after Civil Beat reported Monday on the difficulties of gaining information about public meetings in Hawaii.
Boards and commissions had been required to post information about their meetings on the online state calendar under former Gov. Linda Lingle, but when Abercrombie came into office the requirement fell through the cracks.
After Civil Beat exposed the problem, it called on the governor to act and lift the state out of the information “Dark Ages.”
Abercrombie in his Thursday memo said his decision will “make the information more readily available and the business of boards and commissions more transparent to the public.”
Boards and commissions are required to file notices with the lieutenant governor’s office six days prior to a meeting — including the time, date and agenda — under Hawaii’s Sunshine Law. The same information also must be posted in the offices of the agencies.
But gaining access to this information is not always an easy task. In an island state, without online posting, it requires individuals either to visit the bulletin board on the floor level of the chambers of the State Capitol building or stop by the appropriate office, an impossibility for many residents.
Lingle issued a memo in 2008 ordering boards and commissions to post this information to the online state calendar, but that memo had no effect after she left office. Abercrombie didn’t review the situation for almost a year. And Civil Beat found that the system had broken down.
While there is no government oversight to ensure that all of the state’s more than 160 boards and commissions are complying with the requirements of the Sunshine Law, the attorney general’s office is tasked with enforcing the law and members of the public can bring a lawsuit to force a department or commission into compliance. Government officials who willfully violate the law can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, and if convicted, be removed from office.
While Abercrombie’s memo does not amend the Sunshine Law, which can only be done by the Legislature, it aids the intent of the law, which is to make public meetings accessible to the public