Closed-door meetings under fire

LIHUE — The Kauai Community Cat Project has filed a Sunshine Law complaint against the County of Kauai for holding closed-door meetings of the feral cat task force and feral cat ordinance committee.

“Meaningful engagement of the citizenry through public forums is central to our form of government, and yet the county has repeatedly stated that it intentionally kept discussions on this issue a secret,” KCCP stated in a Friday press release.

The organization filed suit Sept. 20. It is represented by Michael Carroll, a Honolulu lawyer with Bays, Lung, Rose & Holma.

The contention goes back to 2013 when the feral cat task force began meeting in August, said Basil Scott of KCCP. The meeting times weren’t broadcast and the media wasn’t allowed in.

Councilwoman Joann Yukimura is referenced in the complaint, and is hailed in the KCCP release as the person “who helped define this process and has personally led it for the last year and a half.”

Friday, Yukimura said she hasn’t seen any legal papers related to the complaint.

“At this point I don’t believe we violated any Sunshine Laws,” Yukimura said.

Scott said he alerted Yukimura to “an awkward situation” in 2013 – that it “seemed like the task force violated the Sunshine Law.”

In KCCP’s view, the secrecy of the meetings is a core part of the strategy behind the law that the feral cat ordinance committee is pushing forward, according to the release.

“The strategy is a de facto ban of TNR (Trap Neuter Release programs) accomplished through a myriad of unenforceable regulations and hidden details,” the release says. “Those details include a mapping process that will likely result in the entire island of Kauai beginning designated as ‘sensitive bird habitats’ and off-limits for TNR.”

TNR programs are a main focus of KCCP’s goal to contain and care for the feral cat population on Kauai.

“TNR on Kauai has done more to reduce the population of stray and homeless cats on Kauai in the last five years than all state and federal agencies combined,” the release says. “A ban on the practice would result in rapidly increasing cat populations, which would hurt everybody.”

Taking the step to sue the county is a “daunting challenge” for the small nonprofit, according to Martha Girdany, and the organization has set up a legal defense fund specifically for that purpose.

“That way we can ensure that funds raised for cat care are not used for these legal issues,” Girdany said.

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