Posted on Feb 1, 2002 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 02-01
February 1, 2002
Request for Disclosure of Settlement Agreement Between an Agency and a Private Party

A reporter requested an opinion concerning public access to a settlement agreement (“Agreement”) between an individual and the University of Hawaii (“University”). The lawsuit involved the right to profits derived from research into the genetic cloning of animals conducted at the University.

The OIP informed the University that settlement agreements between agencies and members of the public are generally public documents required to be disclosed under the UIPA, and asked the University to provide it with the record for confidential review to determine if the UIPA requires disclosure.

After the University refused to turn the record over to the OIP without a court order requiring disclosure, the Attorney General assigned a deputy to the case. A Petition to Examine Records of Agency was drafted for filing in Circuit Court. Shortly before the suit was to be filed, the University agreed to turn over the Agreement to the OIP.

The OIP reviewed the Agreement, and found that the Agreement contains no information that would qualify as a significant privacy interest, and that the Agreement does not contain information that would not be discoverable in a judicial or quasi-judicial action to which the University is or may be a party. The OIP also found that disclosure of the Agreement would not cause the frustration of a legitimate government function. law.

Addressing a critical issue raised in the case, the OIP found that a government agency has a statutory duty, under the UIPA, to provide the OIP with documents for examination by the OIP for the purpose of conducting inquiries regarding compliance with the UIPA by an agency, and for the investigation of possible violations by an agency.

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