Posted on Dec 29, 2003 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 03-21
December 29, 2003
Records Pertaining to Kahana Valley State Park Interpretive Leases

Residents living in Kahana prior to its condemnation for a State park negotiated a “living park” concept to be able to continue living in the Kahana Valley State Park (“Park”). The General Leases between the DLNR and each Lessee states that, for consideration of a Lessee’s participation in the Park interpretive program, the Lessee is given a residential lease to a specific lot for 65 years. Thus, Lessees pay for their leases with in-kind services rather than monetary rent.

General Leases, and exhibits and addenda attached thereto, are public under section 92F-12(a)(5), HRS. In a typical lease, the dollar amount paid as lease rent is set forth in the lease itself and, thus, is public. With the General Leases, the activities performed as rent for the leases are not set forth because the specific activities to be performed were agreed upon at a later date and are memorialized in subsequent agreements or other records. Thus, because of the unique method of payment of the General Leases, rent amounts were not included in the lease documents at the time they were executed.

While Lessees have privacy interests in records showing the activities performed and hours earned, these interests are diminished by the fact that compensation for leases are generally set forth within lease documents which are public and the Lessees, at the time they entered into the General Leases, could not have reasonably believed that the activities to be performed in lieu of rent would be confidential; the sole purpose of the interpretive programs are for the education of the public; Lessees were aware at the time they negotiated their leases that public education was a part of their payment obligation; and in many cases, Lessees fulfill their lease obligations in full view of the public.

Information on lease payment amounts and activities performed opens the DLNR’s administration and management of the Park, including the rent for leases of State land, to public scrutiny. Balancing the public interest against the Lessees’ privacy interests, we found that the public interest in disclosure is greater than the Lessees’ privacy interests, and records showing specific activities conducted and hours earned as payment of rent for General Leases of State land are public because disclosure would not be a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under section 92F-13(1), HRS.

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