County Employees Allowed to Watch Live Streams of Council Meetings… County Employees 1 Public 0 ????

I’m kind of irked if the following statement from former County Council Legislative Aide, Tiffany Edwards Hunt is true:

Damon, my understanding is all county employees have access to a live stream of the County Council meeting… I used to watch the Council meetings from my computer when I worked in the County Clerk’s Office as a legislative assistant. I typed in some numerical web address to gain access… And, it is my understanding that when and if the teleconferencing goes down, the Council or committee meeting needs to be recessed until the technical problem can be fixed…

I followed up with this:

  • damon Says:
    July 27th, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Wow… blown away… thanks tiff.

    So why only county employees? Pfft… do they pay more into the system then non-county employees?

    What about Janitors and other “County Employees”.

    Where can I find this list of County Members that are so privileged to watch these and not us regular folks with the same internet access?

    Where do the Lifeguards at the Pahoa Pool watch them… I’ll just kick back with them if it’s somewhere at the aquatics center.

    I’m very puzzled now. What’s the big deal if they are already streaming them to county employees… why not make them available to everyone?

    Since when was a county employee any better then a Federal or State employee? Or a Private employee or Joe blow collecting welfare?

    I’m totally puzzled now… seriously folks? I feel totally out of the loop if this is going on and I will start demanding for equal access to all of us that pitch into this little thing… not just a few select county employees.

  • damon Says:
    July 27th, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Tiff… I can’t remember the time line when you left as Naole’s assistant and when she moved into her new office behind subway…

    But I kind of doubt her office behind Subway has a T1 data line. I may be mistaken.

    If she does have one all to herself… wow… ! I’m gonna go surf the net at our local council ladies office. LOL.

  • James Weatherford Says:
    July 27th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    This provided for in the Sunshine Law:

    Once teleconferencing sites and capability are on the public notice, then…
    “when and if the teleconferencing goes down, the Council or committee meeting needs to be recessed until the technical problem can be fixed…”

  • damon Says:
    July 27th, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    ******

    Is there any reason why “PUBLIC NOTICE” needs to be made.

    I’ll settle for an IP Address to watch these streams.

    Can’t they set up something where they don’t have to make it “Public Notice”

    It could be “Request by demand”?

    I just wanna watch these things and if someone else is at the county level… then I want to at home!

    If they go down on my nickle… so be it… I’m not gonna ask for the meeting to be recessed… I understand shat happens… !

    But at least give us the public a chance to watch these.

  • damon Says:
    July 27th, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I’ll make it public on my blog… just give me the IP.

    Or is there some secret that the public isn’t aware of…

    pfft…

    Very irritated right now.

  • damon Says:
    July 27th, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    From Jon Yoshimoto to Damon Tucker (May 22nd):

    Thank you for your email. We are in the process of looking into having live streaming video of our council meetings that could possibly result in considerable savings to the county.

    From Dominic Yagong to Kenneth Goodenow (May 22nd):

    I think we should do this if at all possible. Let me know how much money it would take, and I can see if we can find the money and amend the final budget on our June 2nd meeting. In today’s hectic world, we need to utilize technology that will provide the most convenient service to our island constituency. Thanks Ken.

    From Kenneth Goodenow to Damon Tucker (May 22nd):

    Please see the attached Department of Human Resources. I’ve already been through this before, but I thought I check again. I have also been told by HR the following:

    1) In the case of video-streaming the law hasn’t caught up to the technology yet. Podcasts and webcasts are now mentioned as falling under the ADA requirements for accessibility.

    2) The County of Kaua ‘i had a lawsuit filed against them based on Communications Access because transmission of County Council Meetings was not captioned. There was a judgment against County of Kauai and now everything they do is captioned.

    Thank you again for your comments. Again, if you think you can provide the services for less, I encourage you to participate in the next RFP.

    http://mauinotices.com/2009/07/27/live-streaming-the-county-council-meetings-more-chaos-or-just-musical-chairs/

    Now tell me why do our council members and county clerk write emails to me like this last two months ago, if the county employees have been getting this all along.

    WTF?

    My head is spinning on this ordeal.

    Didn’t know one of the benefit of being a county employee was you get to see the Council Meetings on your computer… pfft.

    I’m so confused on this now… Can someone please tell me why Joe Blow isn’t as cool as Joe County Worker?

Live Streaming the County Council Meetings… More Chaos or Just Musical Chairs?

council-1

On May 21st  I sent out the following email:

Aloha Council Members,

My name is Damon Tucker and I am curious about the Na Leo Television contract that was written about in yesterday’s paper.  I blogged about it on my blog and the links in the blog will take you to the sites referenced in the re-post of the blog.

I was the former Master Control Operator for Olelo Channel 56 (However I was under the Employment of the Department of Education.

I controlled channel 56 statewide and broadcast hundreds of live shows statewide during the last decade.

I also work on many websites and blogs for people throughout the community.

I want to know why Live Streaming of the Council Meetings is not being done when the cost to do them would be very little.

Also the price that you are paying this company to do the work that they are doing is frigging ridiculous.

I could record each meeting and have the council and Na Leo copies of the meetings on DVD w/in 24 hours of each meeting.

This could easily be done for under $40,000 a year!!!

And I could put these online and available for viewing at any time instead of the limited broadcast times available on Na Leo.

The following I posted on my blog today I suggest you view the blog to see the links:

http://mauinotices.com/2009/05/20/na-leo-forks-over-75000-for-council-meetings-to-be-broadcast-140000-and-still-not-much-public-access/

May 20, 2009

You better bet Na Leo ‘O Hawaii should be coming up with money every year to pitch in to our council meetings.

Na Leo ‘O Hawaii has come up with $75,000 so the Hawaii County Council can continue to air its meetings on public access cable TV channel 52 in Hilo and Kona.

For them to even think about not giving up money would be totally against everything that community programming is for.

…Goodenow said the county’s contract with Out of the Sea Media Arts, a private video production company, totaled $131,000 for each of the past two fiscal years. He said $140,000 had been earmarked for videos of this year’s meetings.

Out of the Sea, which is owned by Jeff and Wendy Haun, records each meeting and hands Na Leo a ready-to-air DVD. The contract is renewable on a yearly basis.

“That seventy-five grand represents over half the cost of what it takes us to produce these programs,” Goodenow said. “Actually, (Hilo Councilman) Donald Ikeda said, ‘Hey, I think Maui and Oahu get some kind of funding. So I wrote a letter to Na Leo, saying that given budget cuts, we were considering reducing the number of meetings we record.”

Na Leo Board Chairman Gerald Takase, who is also a county deputy corporation counsel, said he “pretty much stayed out of the process…”

I think Big Island Video News and I could probably do a much better job and put these meetings not only LIVE On the Internet as the meetings are happening…. but also archive them for viewing later.

Anyone can videotape these meetings and then put them to DVD. With the software that is readily available people can do this in not much time at all.

I’m not trying to knock the company that is doing this… but the process and the way the county is doing this is all messed up.

That $140,000 should be spent on 3 County Employees that are hired to video document everything that happens and put it all online.

The technology is there and could be done. Why not create 3 county positions and have this done the right way where more public access could be had by all for are tax dollars.

$140,000 to watch these shows that are aired how many times? I’d like to know the actual “Viewership” numbers of the people watching them.

That could be figured out easily if they were online… well at least how many times the online copy was viewed.

…The state, which regulates cable television, charges a franchise fee, essentially a tax, to each cable subscriber, which is used in part to finance public access television, which operates channels 52-56 on the Big Island …

This is actually considered “PEG” Funding. Public-Education-Government Funding.

I don’t know what part of the “G” Na Leo doesn’t get?

Funding for PEG is managed through the government issuing the franchise agreement. This same government receives franchise fees that ultimately come from the local cable subscribers. PEG television probably experiences interruptions in contract negotiations by the local governments, late payment of contracted operating monies, or obstructive or restricting behavior from the government issuing the franchise agreement…
…PEG television stations are often poorly managed and give rise to numerous complaints. Complaints range from the poor scheduling and playback, programming playing late or not at all, or signal strength being so weak that the program becomes unviewable. Complaints may reflect viewers’ general disagreement with other people’s viewpoints that result from running programming created by other member’s of the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. Complaints may also reflect discrimination in the resources a PEG organization applies to one type of programming vs. another…

I haven’t watched any of the council meetings on TV this year, but I remember when I was a Production Assistant for the Hawaii State Legislature, we were just running one camera via remote for most of the legislative meetings. When the larger chamber meetings went on, that’s when we would switch to a multi-cam gig. I can’t see the necessity of having a multi-cam gig on a single council meeting.

I like what Dave Corrigan of Big Island Video News said about the lack of live streaming in a question I posed to him:

“…If you think about it, they are already live streaming (locations from Waimea, Kona and Hilo ) so its just a matter of making that feed available to the public over the internet…”

I received the following reply from Councilman Yagong addressed to Kenneth Goodenow on May 22nd:

From: “Dominc Yagong”
To: “Goodenow, Kenneth”
Cc: damontucker@yahoo.com

Aloha Kenneth,

I think we should do this if at all possible. Let me know how much money it would take, and I can see if we can find the money and amend the final budget on our June 2nd meeting. In today’s hectic world, we need to utilize technology that will provide the most convenient service to our island constituency. Thanks Ken.

Aloha – Dominic

On May 22nd I also received the following E-Mail from Councilman Yoshimoto:

From: “J S Yoshimoto”
To:”‘damon tucker'”

Aloha Damon,

Thank you for your email. We are in the process of looking into having live streaming video of our council meetings that could possibly result in considerable savings to the county.

Mahalo,

J/

Later that same day I get the following email from County Clerk Kenneth Goodenow:

From: “Kenny Goodenow”
To: “‘damon tucker'”
Memo No 09-029 Access to County Websites by Persons with Disabilities (2).pdf (533KB)

Mr. Tucker,

Please see the attached Department of Human Resources. I’ve already been through this before, but I thought I check again. I have also been told by HR the following:

1) In the case of video-streaming the law hasn’t caught up to the technology yet. Podcasts and webcasts are now mentioned as falling under the ADA requirements for accessibility.

2) The County of Kaua ‘i had a lawsuit filed against them based on Communications Access because transmission of County Council Meetings was not captioned. There was a judgment against County of Kauai and now everything they do is captioned.

Thank you again for your comments. Again, if you think you can provide the services for less, I encourage you to participate in the next RFP.

Thank you,

Ken Goodenow

So my response of course is to once again look at what is being done on Oahu already:

REGULAR CITY COUNCIL Meeting April 22, 2009 06h 08m Agenda Video Open Video Only in Windows Media Player MP3 Audio

I also want to make a note that there is a difference between what I highlighted above in Goodenow’s reply as to Podcasts and Webcasts versus Live Streaming.

Podcast: a Web-based audio broadcast via an RSS feed, accessed by subscription over the Internet

Webcast: the broadcasting of news, entertainment, etc., using the Internet, specifically the World Wide Web.

Live Streaming: a technology for transferring data so that it can be received and processed in a steady stream.

There is nowhere in the 20 page PDF file*  that Clerk Goodenow sent me that mentions Live Streaming needed to be ADA Compliant.   *(I can email that to anyone interested)

All us folks are simply asking for is a simple live stream of the meetings.

You can make the CC of the meetings available at any time there after.

Let’s take a look at one more from Oahu:

SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING April 8, 2009 00h 04m Agenda Video Open Video Only in Windows Media Player MP3 Audio

From the Desk of Lincoln Ashida on the County Sunshine Law Lawsuit

From the Desk of Lincoln Ashida:

Lincoln serious

Council Sunshine Law Lawsuit: Not a legal conflict, but a political conflict.

On July 23, 2009, Third Circuit Court Administrative Judge Ron Ibarra ruled on the West Hawai‘i Today’s motion for a temporary restraining order.  The WHT originally sued the Hawai‘i County Council, alleging they violated the State Sunshine Law (open meetings law) and sought to have the reorganization of the Council’s leadership voided, as well as all official action taken by the Council since the reorganization.  After the lawsuit was filed, the WHT filed an additional request with the Court, asking that an order be immediately issued preventing the Council from transacting any official business.

Judge Ibarra denied the WHT’s request for the immediate issuance of an injunction.  Instead, the Court ordered an injunction will issue at 6:00 p.m. on August 5, 2009.  Why this is significant is because the Council has scheduled a meeting the day before (August 4, 2009) and plans to revert back to the leadership lineup that was in place prior to June 16, 2009.  For all practical purposes, so long as the Council follows through on what was unanimously decided at its most recent Council meeting on July 22, 2009, Judge Ibarra’s order will be effectively moot, and there will be no need for the injunction.

During the briefing with the Council on July 22, 2009, a question was posed by two Council members why certain legal action was taken by our office in the defense of the Council in this lawsuit.  A recent newspaper article written by a WHT reporter (the same WHT that has sued the County) questioned whether our office had a legal conflict of interest in the representation of the many parties involved in this lawsuit.  The real question and issue should be focused on the Council members involved, and whether they have a political conflict that prevents them from fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility to the County they serve.

Copied below are our answers (in blue) to questions posed by the WHT reporter, many of which were omitted from their newspaper article:

My questions are of the “serve many masters” variety. How does a Corporation Counsel in general (and I guess you in particular) handle the demands of differing clients?

These demands can be significant.  The key is identifying the true “client.”  For example in the case of the Council, it is the Council as a whole that is the “organizational client” whose interest we are obligated to protect.  Individual members and their personal interests are not clients of the Corporation Counsel. Of course Council members take action (or inaction) on behalf of the organizational client we represent, but so long as they are not named as defendants in their personal capacity, there should be no conflict in our representing the organization, even if they have different views.  This is where it can be confusing for Council members, and I understand that.

In the recent Council reorganization discussion, the first thing we asked all Council members is to spend some time thinking whether they have a “personal view” about the reorganization, or a “personal interest.”  Anyone can have a view, and that doesn’t place you in conflict.  However if you have a personal interest that differs from the organizational client, the Council member may have a problem.

When the WHT filed their motion for the TRO, it was clear the interest of the organizational client Council was to oppose any order that would prohibit it from unduly performing their official duties. No Council member disagreed with that. The WHT targeted Chairman J Yoshimoto asserting he had willfully violated the Sunshine Law.  Had the Court found there had been a willful violation, it would be more likely to immediately grant the TRO, instead of delaying the implementation of the order as the Court eventually did.

In Court, we presented evidence on behalf of the Council that Mr. Yoshimoto disputed any allegation he had actually spoke with more than a quorum of members prior to his contacting Mr. Hoffmann. The statement of Mr. Hoffmann that contradicted Mr. Yoshimoto was already part of the record and the County stipulated (agreed) the Court could consider it.  This raised questions by Mr. Hoffmann and Mr. Yagong.  After discussing this with Mr. Hoffmann, he understood the legal need for the Council to take this position, and appreciates this had nothing to do with any assertion he was not telling the truth.  In fact, in discussing this with Mr. Hoffmann, he acknowledged that Mr. Yoshimoto never said he spoke with Mr. Ikeda and Ms. Nae`ole.  It was not unreasonable to conclude that even if that statement of “having five votes” was made, Mr. Yoshimoto correctly concluded Mr. Ikeda and Ms. Nae`ole would support him, as they have historically done in the past. I urge you to confirm this with Mr. Hoffmann; there appears to be some severe public confusion and misunderstanding that Mr. Hoffmann reported that Mr. Yoshimoto in fact said he actually spoke to Mr. Ikeda and Ms. Nae`ole.  This is simply not true.

In the case of Mr. Yagong, he questioned whether there was preferential treatment for Mr. Yoshimoto.  This raises more concern regarding a conflict of interest on his part.  The question each Council member needs to ask is “What outcome do I want to see in this lawsuit?”  If the answer is a finding of a willful violation against any of its members, then there is a problem.  This is because the actions of any member will be construed as the actions of the Council, since all nine members were sued in their official capacities.  If any Council member is in a position where they are advocating for a result (or otherwise has a personal interest in the result) inconsistent with that of the Council as a whole, they need to carefully consider whether they are abiding by their fiduciary responsibility as a County officer.  I am not suggesting Mr. Yagong or any member is in conflict; but this is why we emphatically asked each member to take some time to think about it, and even discuss it with a private attorney if they wanted to.

So the short answer is there is no short answer.  Handling different “demands” of County clients can be difficult, but our Rules of Professional Conduct (Hawai‘i Supreme Court rules) guide us.

Would you say your 1st responsibility is to:
1) the public 2) the administration that hires you 3) the council 4) the council chair 5) the council majority?

Our first responsibility is to the public.  No question about that.  In fact the Rules of Professional Responsibility provide there is no attorney-client privilege with respect to government waste or abuse.

However what is not clearly understood by many is although we are public servants, the public at large is not our client.  The brutal reality is the judicial system in our country is an adversarial one with both sides of any conflict having the right to zealous legal representation.  Courts are called upon to oversee these disputes, and require both sides follow rules of practice and procedure that seek to discover the truth. The Council’s reorganization best exemplifies this. Those that are critical of the Council’s decision to reorganize also criticize our office for defending the actions of the majority vote of the Council.  They incorrectly conclude that since we are public servants, we somehow have a duty  to advocate the personal views of some members of the public.  I understand why they feel this way, and will never criticize anyone for having views.  But the reality is our job is to represent the majority vote (not members) of legally defensible Council action.  During the previous Council term, when other members of our Council comprised the majority, similarly our role was to advocate and defend the legally defensible actions taken by the majority vote of the Council.  This is something that happens all the time, I don’t recall ever hearing any criticism of the legal services provided by our office.  I suppose it is getting much more attention today since the conflicts between some Council members concerning the reorganization appear to be more political than legal.

The other entities you mention (administration, Council, Council chair, Council majority) are all part of the County of Hawai‘i.  This is the client (County of Hawai‘i) and our responsibility is to support the policies established by both the administration and Council, so long as they are legally defensible (note here these policies may not be “popular” with the public, but we do not have the prerogative to pick and choose which policies to legally protect).

The Council will often feel their interests are “secondary” to the administration, since the Corporation Counsel is appointed by the Mayor.  This is completely understandable.  The only way we can hope to show the Council’s legal interests are equally as important is through our actions.

Within the Council, we stress that it is the majority vote that we seek to protect (so long as it is legally defensible) and not the majority members. Of course much of the legislation that passes is done by whoever is in the majority, so it will naturally appear it is their “interest” that is being advocated vis-à-vis the other members.

The recent Council reorganization is the best example of this.  When the reorganization resolution passed, there did appear to be inadvertent violations of the Sunshine Law.  We advised (and the Council concurred) to put all contacts Council members had with one another on the record in order to mitigate any harm to the public. The Council was advised to move forward; we recognized had there been no lawsuit within 90 days of any opinion letter being filed by OIP, the actions of the Council would be protected from legal challenge.

The WHT lawsuit changed that.  In hindsight, it did the Council a big favor.  It caused this issue to come to a head sooner than later, and this will help the Council get back on track and return to doing the people’s business.  There will be no “90 days of uncertainty,” wondering if there will be a lawsuit challenging the actions taken by the reorganized Council. Any Council member can have a “personal view” that the reorganization was invalid or should not have been done.  No problem there.  The problem arises where a Council member has a “personal interest” contrary to the majority vote of the Council.  In the case of Mr. Hoffmann, there is no problem.  He may be called as a witness by the WHT in this case, and that is alright. He does not have a personal interest in the outcome of this lawsuit, and irrespective of his personal views, he does not actively advocate a position contrary to the position taken by the County in the lawsuit.

How do you prioritize that list?

There should be no “priority” between the administration and Council; their interests should be consistent—doing what is best for the people of our County.  In those instances where there may be a conflict with respect to the manner in which to achieve this objective, we do our best to avoid that conflict from materializing.  Much of my time is spent mediating as much as lawyering. However in those cases where the conflict exists, special counsel may be employed.  Trying to erect a “screening” procedure in our office (i.e., having two different attorneys assigned with one representing each side of the dispute), although well-intended, may not be practically possible and admittedly does little to ease the concerns of both clients.

do you also represent the clerk?

Yes, for his/her actions taken in the course and scope of his/her duties.

In this particular lawsuit, you are faced with 2 coucilmembers who have different recollections of a meeting. the third party to the conversation, the clerk, is likely to be called as a witness by one side or the other. can you represent all three? will someone in you office handle some of the burden? or does outside counsel play a part? Will you be recommending Mr Hoffmann in particular have a different attorney? (he said he is expecting t be talking with you today)

I think I covered this earlier.  The two different recollections is not legally significant for purposes of legal representation, and that does not place either Mr. Yoshimoto or Mr. Hoffmann in conflict.  Look at it this way: When I was a prosecutor, there were times in a case where a police officer may have had testimony or evidence that conflicted with the prosecution’s theory of the case.  The law calls this “exculpatory evidence.”  Often it will be the defense that would call these police officers as witnesses.  No problem.  And it is no problem since the police officer has no personal interest in the outcome of the case (in fact presumably his personal view and interest is that the prosecution should prevail).  The last trials I did as a prosecutor were the Pauline/Schweitzer cases involving the kidnap, rape and murder of Dana Ireland.  In those cases, the defense called many County police personnel as witnesses since they were alleging the DNA did not match the perpetrators and exonerated their clients.  Even if the DNA evidence (lack of sufficient sample for a match) conflicted with the wealth of other probative evidence the prosecution had, it didn’t place the County police officers in conflict such that independent counsel was necessary for them, or anything close to that.  Turning back to the Council’s reorganization scenario, this is why Council members have been asked and reminded to remember it is the Council as an organization that is the client we represent, and not the personal interests of its individual members.

would you agree with Mr. Hoffmann that this is an area the charter Commission might look at when it offers amendments to the charter?

Absolutely.  It is something that should constantly be looked at.  But as long as we are talking about this, I think everyone should be aware of some of the unintended consequences.  These include (1) lengthy and expensive litigation (when multiple lawyers are involved, invariably there will be legal conflict that may be drawn out over years), and (2) the mistake some Council officers and employees may make in believing they have a “personal”’ attorney.

But beyond that, I think it is important the Charter Commission take a close look at this issue and hear as much input as possible.  I think they could benefit from hearing from other jurisdictions around our State and country that deal with these potential conflicts from time to time.  Former County Clerk (and present Charter Commission member and UH Law Professor) Casey Jarman had an excellent suggestion concerning some changes to the Charter involving Corporation Counsel.  Admittedly at first I told her I thought the attendant financial costs were too great, but I am reconsidering and thinking her suggestions may be some the Commission should consider. Either way, what is most important is public awareness and information.  We need to do a better job with that and let the public know why legal decisions are made.

anything else you want to add is appreciated.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the above, please contact me at Lashida@co.hawaii.hi.us, or via telephone at (808) 961-8304, extension 118.  This message was posted on

July 27, 2009, at 7:45 a.m.

Crazy Dude Jumping Off of Tall Buildings in Hawaii (BASE)

I don’t what to think of this crazy dude jumping off buildings in Hawaii.

It certainly can’t be legal:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/Midde3nEhtE]

Possible Swine Flu Exposure of Student Attending Montessori School?

My son is attending Montessori Pre-School in Pahoa, and I was notified by one of the teachers this morning of a “POSSIBLE UNCONFIRMED” case of a student that may have been exposed to the “Swine Flu” last week when my son was in Disneyland.

There were only a couple students attending school today out of more then thirty.  The teacher has told me that the student has recovered.

Other parents have apparently kept their children home from school today… so in being safe rather then sorry… I too am keeping my son home today.

I don’t want to cause any panic… and I want to make sure I’m real clear that there has been “NO CONFIRMATION” that it was swine flu.

When the teacher herself said the words and was taking the temperature of all students arriving  and asking questions such as was anyone sick in the family or household  and how was our traveling on the airplanes… etc. , that  was enough to tell me I wasn’t going to even risk it.

On a side note… this could happen at any school any place in America right now.

I have the upmost respect for the Staff and Faculty of Montessori Country  Schools and will always continually recommend it to any parent asking about a great pre-school on the Big Island.

I truly feel it is the best Pre-School on the Island.