RESTRICTIONS ON TESTIMONY NOT ALLOWED
News, July 11, 2007
EAGAR, Staff Writer
WAILUKU – The state Office of Information Practices has written an
opinion that public bodies cannot restrict testimony on agenda items.
If a government board or committee wants to narrow the focus of a
discussion, the office said, it would have to write a more specific
The question arose from a March 13 Maui Planning Commission meeting.
The commission wanted to receive an annual report from Maui Beach
Limited Partnership about its disbursement of funds from a settlement
agreement with West Maui Preservation Association Inc. It was not an
Sharyn Matin, founder of WMPA, wanted to present a more extensive
explanation of events from the past year than Deputy Planning Director
Colleen Suyama thought was necessary or appropriate.
Using transcripts and videotapes, OIP concluded that Suyama asked
Matin to limit her testimony “to a narrower range of issues than the
agenda item reasonably encompassed.”
“Through its accedence to Ms. Suyama’s limitations of Ms. Matin’s
testimony, the commission violated the Sunshine Law’s public testimony
requirement.” The office added that “the violation does not appear to
have been intentional.”
The opinion by staff attorney Jennifer Brooks concluded:
“The commission may not restrict testifiers from testifying on issues
that fall within the general subject matter of an agenda item.
Although the commission can require that testimony be related to the
agenda item, the commission must interpret the agenda item broadly.”
Lance Collins, attorney for WMPA, said the association was reviewing
the ruling but was unlikely to pursue the matter further.
“The point has been made,” he said.
He said public bodies “really need to understand the Sunshine Law is
there in order to have a very open and vibrant discussion.”
Planning Director Jeff Hunt said the department “fully supports the
Sunshine Law” and was “only trying to focus testimony to help the
planning commission be expeditious with its time.”
He apologized to WMPA for the unintentional error and said in the
future the department will try to “make its agendas more precise.”
Suyama said Monday her handling of the March meeting “should not be
reflective of the planning commission, who have been generous with
She said she apologized to Matin and the WMPA for restricting the
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