A new year, same old ways

Well, some things never change. Our county government continues to show that it is very comfortable conducting the public’s business in private.

This week after a prolonged public tussle, the County Council organized itself along lines that were decided upon privately before their first official meeting of the year. The members relied on a corporation counsel’s opinion that until they are sworn in, their actions are not covered by the state’s Sunshine Law.

Well, we’d point out that some of the folks who voted for the organization were sitting council members that were re-elected. Exactly when were they sworn out of office?

But, it really doesn’t matter because — as we’ve pointed out repeatedly — Hawaii’s Sunshine Law is a toothless tiger. The agency that oversees the law, the Office of Information Practices, has no enforcement authority. It is up to private citizens to file costly suits in court to force government transparency.

So, we have a council that regularly debates things like the demolition of the Old Post Office in Wailuku and picking a new county clerk in private. We have a Salary Commission that hands out double-digit raises to county managers without even bothering to put the issue on its agenda.

At least the council can theoretically be held accountable at the polls — the Salary Commission apparently is answerable to no one.

One final note to our county officeholders:

Just because a lawyer tells you something is legal doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Closed-door decision-making is a dangerous disservice to the public.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.