About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill. Matthew Leonard and Richard Wiens.


Short takes, outtakes, our takes and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

And we’re off: Last week was the deadline for introducing bills for consideration during this year’s legislative session and lawmakers did not disappoint. There will be plenty of things to keep The Sunshine Blog and Civil Beat’s reporters busy this year.

The Blog has its eye on more than 100 bills that cover a lot of ground when it comes to transparency and accountability issues as well as election and campaign finance measures and a few others that speak to how the public’s business is being done. That’s about half as many as last year when the bribery convictions of two prominent lawmakers had everyone talking about the need for political reform.

  • A Special Commentary Project

This year a big fight seems to be brewing over the Sunshine Law, Hawaii’s open meetings law that requires the public’s business to be done in public. Sen. Donna Mercado Kim already held an informational briefing on it and about a dozen bills have been introduced that would change the law in some way, many of them seeking exemptions from doing things openly.

One would require the Legislature to bring itself under the Sunshine Law (it never has been subject to it). The Blog predicts that will go nowhere fast.

Senate President Ron Kouchi, who’s not the most sunshiny of lawmakers to begin with, has introduced Senate Bill 3203, which adds a bit of a poison pill to the Sunshine Law’s intent section by declaring, in essence, we love the Sunshine Law except for when it gets in our way.

(Screenshot/2024)

That underlined part is what’s new. Seems like the paragraph was just fine as it was.

Among other things, the bill appears to change the section of the law about what boards and commissions can go into closed session for. The new language would allow them to hire, fire and conduct performance evaluations behind closed doors. This has been a contentious issue with public officials ever since the Public First Law Center challenged the secret Honolulu Police Commission meetings that resulted in a $250,000 payoff to former police chief Louis Kealoha in a case that went all the way to the Hawaii Supreme Court which said hiring, firing and performance evaluations of top public officials needs to be done out in the open.

According to the legislative website, Kouchi has introduced this bill at the request of someone else. You won’t be surprised to hear that he doesn’t say who that someone else is. And under the Legislature’s own internal rules, they don’t have to say.

You can track this bill and all of the legislative action this year by making use of the Hawaii State Legislature’s most excellent website. And please help us as we continue our “Let The Sunshine In” project for a second year. Send a note to sunshine@civilbeat.org with any tips, suggestions, comments or complaints.

The price of secrecy: A Circuit Court judge recently ordered the state Department of Education to pay Honolulu Civil Beat more than $61,000 in legal costs for making us go to court and spend more than five years trying to get the names and disciplinary files on teachers who had been suspended or fired between April 2017 and April 2018.

Department of Education
The Hawaii Department of Education has to pay legal fees for refusing to release records on teachers who have been disciplined for misconduct as the law requires. (Civil Beat/2010)

Yes, that is how long this has taken. Even though a lower court judge ruled relatively quickly — in less than a year — that DOE needed to release the information on 34 cases, the DOE failed to meet the deadlines set out by the court and in 2020 just stopped communicating or providing any information to Civil Beat’s attorneys. DOE finally started dribbling out the records — most of them were incomplete and had to redone. Every time. More visits to more judges transpired, and now we’re finally finished. In 2024.

You can read all the frustrating details in this compilation of records on the Public First Law Center’s website. They get the money, by the way, not Civil Beat. And may The Blog just say, Brian Black deserves every penny of this one.

We’ve been trying to tell you this for years: If you haven’t listened to Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s verbal spanking of Police Chief Joe Logan on the mayor’s podcast last week, it’s definitely worth the 1 minute and 54 seconds of your time the recording below covers.

The mayor takes the police chief to task for the same kind of lack of communication the media has been forced to put up with for years — namely that the Honolulu Police Department doesn’t see a need to keep the public (or the mayor) informed about police business.

“They don’t get to be a separate country,” he says. “They don’t get to make up their own rules.”

Blangiardi was completely blindsided by an editorial that blamed him in part for a New Year’s day incident in which a pursuit and fatal shooting of an attempted murder suspect by police included allegations that an innocent bystander was apparently mistaken for the suspect and beaten by the cops. Blangiardi actually didn’t know anything about it til he read it in the press.

He says he’s been talking to the chief since he took office about the need for better communication. It’s a matter of building trust, he says.

“At this point, I could not be any more dissatisfied,” the mayor concludes.

The Blog’s money is on Blangiardi on this one. Although, as we all learned with the Kealoha public corruption scandal, the police chief actually works for the police commission, which is appointed by the mayor. We’ll be interested to see if Blangiardi makes any improvements there.

And finally tonight: Civil Beat invited a few dozen of the folks we cover and/or work with every day over to the office on Friday for a pau hana, just to show them around our new space and start the year off on a good foot.

Nothing big, just some pupus and refreshments. A few wild ping pong matchups. A lot of good conversations, all off the record, of course, given the nature of the social gathering.

For the record: Gov. Josh Green did cream Stewart Yerton at ping pong. Stewart says he let the governor win, something about he wants the governor to keep taking his calls. Uh huh.

Gov. Josh Green, left, and Mayor Rick Blangiardi dropped by the Civil Beat pau hana last week. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2024)


Read this next:

Denby Fawcett: Blangiardi Vowed To Revitalize Chinatown. It Hasn't Happened Yet


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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill. Matthew Leonard and Richard Wiens.


Latest Comments (0)

Interesting how people who won't shut up about "protecting our democracy" seem to do everything to undermine it behind closed doors.

ItsOK2bHaole · 3 weeks ago

This says everything.

NicholasVO · 3 weeks ago

Thank you Civil Beat.

thinkpawsitive · 3 weeks ago

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IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

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