Openline November 1997

Posted on Nov 1, 1997 in Newsletter

New Workshop in UIPA Basics
Records Not Available to the Public
Recent OIP Opinion
State of Hawaii Attorney General Opinion Letters Online
OIP Staff Update
On Being Thankful


Education & Training:
New Workshop in UIPA Basics
In its ongoing educational efforts, the Office of Information Practices is now offering a workshop for government agency employees called UIPA Basics. This course is designed for supervisors and upper level managers who respond to record requests. It aims to instruct these individuals in the purposes of the Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified) (“UIPA”), the policies established by the OIP, and the procedures to follow in responding to a request.

Legal Instruction
Each workshop will be conducted by an OIP staff attorney. In the first half of the workshop the attorney covers the history of the UIPA and its basic concepts, including the public’s rights to inspect and copy records (Part II of the UIPA) and an individual’s right to access “personal records” (Part III of the UIPA). Instruction also covers important definitions in the law, exceptions to the general rule that all government records are accessible to the public, and exceptions to an individual’s right of access to personal records.

Hands-On Activities
So that everyone will be actively involved and their questions addressed, class size for each session is limited. Each workshop member is asked to bring in one agency record as a case study for the group to apply the UIPA concepts learned. Participants are then tested on their understanding of the law with hypothetical record requests.

Training Guide
The OIP provides the workshop attendees with a training guide to use during the session and then take with them to use as a concise, practical guide to the basics of the UIPA. The guide includes a copy of the law, summaries of key concepts of the law, and past issues of the Openline that provide guidance on accessing personal records, handling record requests, and collecting and disclosing social security numbers.

Training Schedule
To date, the OIP has conducted UIPA Basics workshops for the Department of Taxation, and upcoming workshops include one for the State’s public information officers in November, and the University of Hawaii and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in December 1997. Information about workshops in April, May, and June of 1998 will appear in future issues of Openline. Departments interested in a UIPA Basics workshop should contact the Office of Information Practices at 586-1400.

The OIP expresses its appreciation for the expert assistance of DHRD’s Training & Employee Development Branch in the planning and scheduling of these workshops, and for the use of the agency’s classroom in the Leiopapa a Kamehameha Building.


Records Not Available to the Public
The UIPA protects government records from required agency disclosure when the records fall within the scope of one or more of the UIPA’s exceptions to required disclosure.

Of the 206 opinions issued by the OIP since 1989, the OIP concluded in 43 instances that one or more of the UIPA’s exceptions applied to certain government records in their entirety. In 46 of its opinions, the OIP found that portions of government records were protected by UIPA exceptions, while at the same time finding other portions of the records to be public.

As a general rule, the OIP has concluded that, under the UIPA, the following information should not be made available for public inspection and copying: individuals’ birthdates and social security numbers, retired public employees’ pension benefits, police officers’ special duty pay, settlement agreements during the negotiation process, and drafts of correspondence and staff notes. Any exceptions to this general rule are dependent on circumstances which may vary from case to case.

The UIPA exceptions most frequently cited by OIP opinions as the basis for the unavailability of records are: (1) specific statutes or court orders prohibiting disclosure of the records; (2) the UIPA’s clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy exception; and (3) the UIPA’s exception for the avoidance of the frustration of a legitimate government function.


Recent OIP Opinion:
Requests for Government Records That Do Not Exist
When a public requester asks for a government record that does not exist, the agency is not required to create the record requested under the UIPA. The agency need not maintain records under the UIPA, although other statutes or rules may apply to the creation or maintenance of government records. However, when a request is made for a government record, the agency is required to make a reasonable search for that record, and a burdensome request does not excuse compliance with the UIPA. [OIP Opinion Letter No. 97-8, September 9, 1997]


State of Hawaii Attorney General Opinion Letters Online
On the Hawaii State Government Home Page (http://www.state.hi.us/) click on Executive Branch, Departments and Agencies, then Department of the Attorney General (AG), or use the URL (http://www.state.hi.us/ag/index.html) for direct access. This takes you to a page that links users to Web sites throughout the Department.

The selection for Opinion Letters from 1987 to 1992 is a direct link to the Hawaii State Bar Association page where these Opinions are displayed in a table format (http://hsba.org/Hawaii/Admin/Ag/agindex.htm). The Opinions from 1992 to the present are available in either a table or framed format through the Department Attorney General’s Web site. In each of these selections, clicking on the letter of your choice will give you access to a full-text online copy of that document.


OIP Staff Update
Fabian A. Niemann joined the OIP as a law clerk in the beginning of October. He graduated from the University of Bonn’s School of Law, Germany in 1994. Mr. Niemann wrote his doctoral thesis on comparative Copyright Law in Bonn and London and he is now preparing for his final, practical examination (the “2. state examination”). Part of this practical education includes his being a Rechtsreferendar, a legal intern studying abroad. Completion of this legal internship is a requirement for practicing law in Germany. In his spare time Fabian likes to travel and enjoys sports, especially hockey and soccer. Although Herr Niemann has had to put his hockey career on hold while doing time in the Aloha State, he has plans to compensate with a little golf and windsurfing whenever he gets the chance. Welcome, Fabian!


On Being Thankful
With Thanksgiving here again, all of us at the Office of Information Practices are thankful for the unalienable rights on which our nation was founded. We pause, as Mr. Jefferson surely would in this amazing age of information, to give thanks for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And we wish you a peaceful and reflective holiday.