Monday, December 18, 2006


Hawaii's Board of Education and Attorney General: Partners in crime?

(Big sigh). With all the more important things we need to consider here in Hawaii (transit, disaster preparedness, whether Barack Obama is coming to visit, and so forth), the continued refusal of the Board of Education to follow the Sunshine Law should rank pretty low on the list.

Well, to many parents and advocates of the growing charter schools movement, the firing of Jim Shon was no trivial matter. You get somebody good, and because of his success, this wayward Board has to shoot him down. Won't they do that again the next time somebody good gets the job?

In the latest round, the BOE has stonewalled the release of the audiotape of their secret meeting at which Shon was fired, and the additional material the OIP directed them to release. Believe it or not, they have scheduled a future meeting to discuss the matter with their accomplice in this crime, the deputy Attorney General (see below).

Remember, the original request was sent to the BOE on September 7. Between then and now, they have had plenty of time to consult with their attorney.

It is OIP's opinion that BOE must make the minutes and the audio tape recording, redacted in accordance with our letter to you of December 8, immediately available to the requesters. Any further delay in disclosing the records cannot be reasonably justified.
--Leslie H. Kondo, OIP Director
The latest stonewalling move is this letter from Karen Knudsen, who was up for reelection at the time she voted to fire Jim Shon. By hiding her action despite the OIP directive to disclose it, the BOE denied citizens an important piece of information that they should have had before they went into the voting booth.

OIP responded quickly. Their letter can be found here.

The gist of Knudsen's letter is that she intends to confer with the Office of the Attorney General at another secret meeting of the BOE to be scheduled for January 4, 2007. This will be almost exactly four months since the original request. The OIP has been clear in its directives. The excessive delay in complying is simply more defiance of the law.

Hawaii's Attorney General -- Accomplice in Crime?

I'm dying of curiousity. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when the BOE conferred with its deputy AG on releasing the information to the public. Did the deputy inform them of their responsibilities under the state's Sunshine Law or not? If so, why another meeting with the BOE on the same subject?

I know that the AG's office is there to answer questions and not to tell the BOE what they must do. The BOE really are adults and can choose their own course of action. But if I were a deputy AG called into a meeting that was not properly noticed to the public or was otherwise illegal, I think I might:
  1. Advise the BOE of the problem so that it could follow the law

  2. Tell the BOE that the AG's office could not participate in an illegal meeting

  3. Leave immediately, if they insisted on going ahead with the illegal meeting
In other words, by participating in the illegal meeting in the first place and continuing to enable the BOE's stonewalling of the OIP directive by agreeing to more meetings, isn't the AG's office an accomplice, in some sense, in what the BOE is doing?

Isn't the AG an accomplice in the BOE's disregard for the Sunshine Law? Are they not assuring the BOE that there will be no consequences should the BOE do the same thing again?

There should be justice for the charter school parents someplace here. I am disappointed to find that our state's highest authority on the law is assisting the BOE instead of the parents.


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