Posted on Jan 31, 2024 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Ltr. No. F24-04
January 31, 2024
Evaluations of Fire Chief

The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association requested the evaluations for the Honolulu Fire Chief (Fire Chief) for the years 2017, 2018, and 2019.  The Honolulu Fire Commission denied access to both completed performance evaluations for 2017 and 2018 (Final Evaluations) and to preliminary evaluations completed by individual Commissioners (Individual Evaluations), citing to the UIPA’s privacy exception, section 92F-13(1), HRS, as its justification for doing so.  The Commission granted access to an unscored evaluation form. 

 As part of the process for creating a Final Evaluation, each individual Commissioner completes an Individual Evaluation, and the Individual Evaluations are then compiled and adjusted based on the Commission’s discussions.  OIP applied the five non-exclusive factors used by OIP and the Hawaii Supreme Court as a starting point in balancing the public interest in disclosure against the privacy interests of a government employee under the UIPA : 

(1) the government employee’s rank;
(2) the degree of wrongdoing and strength of evidence against the employee;
(3) whether there are other ways to obtain the information;
(4) whether the information sought sheds light on a government activity; and
(5) whether the information is related to job function, or is of a personal nature. 

 Considering the relevant factors together, OIP found that on balance, the public interest in disclosure outweighed the Fire Chief’s privacy interest in the Final Evaluations.  HRS § 92F-14(a) (2012).  OIP therefore concluded that the UIPA’s privacy exception did not authorize the Commission to withhold those evaluation).  For the Individual Evaluations, however, OIP found that on balance, the public interest in disclosure did not outweigh the Fire Chief’s privacy interest and therefore concluded that the Commission could therefore withhold them under the UIPA’s privacy exception.  HRS § 92F-13(1). 

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