Law allows closed meetings

HAWAII — The Hawaii state legislature passed a bill in late April allowing the University of Hawaii Board of Regents to close meetings during discussions of donations to the university.Act 48 amends the state sunshine law so sessions could be closed to the public. The University of Hawaii requested the change so that the Board of Regents could offer large donors private meetings when they requested it.Pauline Namuo, the governor1s legislative liaison, said the university has been encouraged to become more financially independent from the state, and the act is supposed to foster an environment that would make donors more comfortable.Eugene Imai, senior vice president for administration at the university, said he does not anticipate the confidential meetings clause being used often.Imai also said that all decisions and discussions before a vote on whether to accept donations would be public.”If the donor is very visible or high profile, then that individual attracts a lot of attention from the media,” Imai said. “If there is some coverage or publicity of just the thought that the individual [might be] donating, it may influence their decision to donate.”A report from the Hawaii House Committee on Higher Education echoed the university’s perspective. It stated that, “certain potentially large donors may want discussions concerning their donations to remain confidential. Without confidentiality, these potential donations are jeopardized.”There was very little opposition to the act. At the very first public meetings about the proposed amendment, some community members had concerns that the decision circumvented the state sunshine law, but they did not protest at subsequent meetings, according to Imai.