Readers of this space may recall that at a June 13 board “briefing” on proposed fishing rules for Maui, Lana`i and Hawai`i island, Board of Land and Natural Resources chair William Aila announced he had removed from the proposed rules the SCUBA spear-fishing ban for West Hawai`i. In addition, Aila did not let the many members of the public in attendance testify.
Having successfully sued the Land Board 16 years ago over its failure to allow public testimony at briefings, Environment Hawai`i complained to the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) on June 14, a Friday. By Sunday, Aila had apologized, stating in an email that he was not aware that in settling our case, the state had agreed that public testimony must be allowed at briefings under the state’s Sunshine Law, Chapter 92 of Hawai`i Revised Statutes.
“There was no ill intent,” he said, adding that he “will make all efforts at future Land Board briefings to take public testimony.”
“In addition,” he continued, “the West Hawai`i rule package will be presented in its entirety at the next scheduled Land Board meeting.”
In a later email, Aila stated that while no deputy attorney general had been present at the briefing, “I will be sure to have one and have public testimony in the future.”
In a June 17 letter, the OIP asked the Land Board to respond to our formal complaint, noting that the board “has the burden to justify any departure from the [Sunshine Law’s] general requirement of openness.” (Click OIP letter to read the letter.)
The OIP asked for a response within 10 business days. On July 3, Aila’s staff asked for a time extension. According to an OIP attorney, the new deadline is now July 23.
In the end, the rules were approved, with Aila and at-large member David Goode voting against the section that included the SCUBA spear-fishing ban. Details of the Land Board’s briefing and June 28 meeting, where the rules were approved, will appear in our August edition.