A reader responded to yesterday’s entry about the availability of EUTF minutes with a comment and question.
I’ve been told: “While those minutes exist, they haven’t been approved by the commission yet, so we can’t post them online/circulate them, etc.”
Is this true? Do minutes have to be approved by the board or commission before the public can see them?
I responded by pointed to a 2002 opinion by the Office of Information Practices, which concluded that unapproved, draft minutes become a public document once they have been prepared.
Here’s part of the summary Opinion 02-06.
Once they are in a form suitable for submission, however, these draft minutes are public records, inasmuch as they reflect events that took place in full view of the public at the open meeting and are essentially a summary of those events, even though unapproved by a board and considered to be a “draft.”
Approval of minutes of open meetings must take place at open meetings, as approval of minutes is not listed in the Sunshine Law as a purpose for which a board is authorized to hold a meeting closed to the public, or as an activity which a board is authorized to conduct outside of a meeting open to the public.
The OIP noted that there is no requirement in the Sunshine Law that a board approve minutes, and therefore boards do not have discretion to withhold minutes from the public based on whether or not the minutes have been approved by a board. Although boards may elect to formally approve minutes, if minutes have not been approved by 30 days after the date of the meeting, minutes, in some form, must be made available to the public.
In any case, it got me wondering about the availability of minutes, starting with whether agencies post minutes online. There’s no legal requirement in the state’s sunshine law requiring minutes to be available online, but it’s a good indication of how responsive an agency is to the public. And it provides a good place to start for a more direct assessment of whether the law is being met. I started with LRB’s directory, and looked at each board, commission, or agency. Here’s the first part of that review.
Performance varies widely between departments and agencies. The Board of Education leads the pack. Despite its intensive schedule of board and committee meetings, it’s minutes are up to date and publicly available well before the 30-day deadline set by law. I gave the BOE a grade of “A”.
Some others didn’t perform as well. I gave failing grades to the Department of Agriculture, the Employees Retirement System, High Tech Development Corporation, DCCA’s boards and commissions, and the State Defense Department’s Advisory Board on Vererans Services. None had meeting agendas or minutes available online.
Here are the results of my informal review, so far:
Campaign Spending Commission. Grade: A-
Last minutes–May 11, 2011 meeting.
Department of Agriculture. Grade: F
Board of Agriculture. Minutes not available online.
Minutes of meetings are available upon written request. Please include your name, address, phone number, name of board and date of meeting.
Apparently none of the other boards/committees in the Department of Agriculture have minutes available online. THese include Molokai Irrigation System Water User Advisory Board, Honokaa-Paauilo Irrigation System Water User Advisory Board, Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals, and the Advisory Committee on Pesticides.
Budget & Finance
Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees. Grade: F
Neither agendas nor minutes available online.
Aloha Tower Development Corporation. Grade: A-
Last minutes posted are for its May 26, 2010 meeting. Last agenda for June 10, 2010 meeting.
Hawaii Community Development Authority. Grade: B
Last minutes posted are for May 18, 2011 meeting. Both May 18 and June 1 minutes are past the 30-day limit.
Last minutes posted are for May 12, 2011 meeting. Minutes for June 9 meeting are just at the 30-day point.
Hawaii Tourism Authority. Grade: C
Only one set of minutes posted online (March 23, 2011). HTA’s meeting schedule is not posted so it is not clear how many sets of minutes may be outstanding.
High Tech Development Corporation. Grade: F
Neither board agendas nor minutes appear to be posted online.
Land Use Commission. Grade: A
Minutes are up to day. Last meeting posted was on June 8, 2011.
Draft minutes are posted for most recent meetings, the last on May 25, 2011. Minutes, including draft minutes, of committee meetings are also posted.
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Grade: Open
I initially gave DCCA a failing grade because it isn’t easy to determine which of the 25 boards and commissions that regulate professions and vocations post minutes online. Most licensing boards do not post minutes. However, it turns out, it’s a mixed bag.
Real Estate Commission. Grade: A
Agendas and minutes of the commission and its committees are available online.
Defense–Advisory Board on Veterans Services. Grade: F
Department of Education.
Board of Education. Grade: A.
Meeting agendas and minutes are available online for the full board and its committees. Minutes are already posted through the June 21 full board meeting.
Hawaii Teachers Standards Board. Grade: A-
Agendas and minutes are available online. Minutes are posted through the April 18, 2011 meeting. May 16th minutes are overdue.