00-02Posted on May 23, 2000 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Letter No. 00-02
May 23, 2000
DHS Fair Hearing Decisions
A requester asked (1) whether fair hearing decisions issued by the Department of Human Services (“DHS”) as to whether a claimant is eligible for general assistance benefits (“Decisions”) must be made available for public inspection and copying, and (2) whether DHS may charge for redacting information from Decisions.
(1) OIP found that Decisions from which individually identifying information has been removed may be disclosed. Section 346-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is designed to protect the confidentiality of records concerning individuals who apply for and receive public services and assistance. Section 92F-12(a)(2), Hawaii Revised Statutes, is designed to protect the public interest in open government by ensuring that agencies do not maintain secret law upon which their decisions are based. These two policies are not mutually exclusive. Removal of individually identifying information will allow for the disclosure of the law of the agency as required by section 92F-12(a)(2), Hawaii Revised Statutes, without infringing upon the privacy of the individuals about whom the decision is rendered. Thus, disclosure of the Decisions from which individually identifying information has been removed will give effect to both sections 92F-12(a)(2) and 346-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes.
(2) OIP found that DHS may not charge for redacting information from Decisions. The law of the agency must be available to the public under section 92F-12(a)(2), Hawaii Revised Statutes. The identifying information contained in the Decisions is not necessarily a part of that law. The information identifying claimants need not have been included in the Decisions. Although DHS has been aware of both section 92F-12(a)(2), Hawaii Revised Statutes, and section 346-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes, it nevertheless has continued to incorporate the individually identifiable data into a public record. The requester should not bear the cost of the DHS’ decision to incorporate this confidential information into a public record. Therefore, the DHS should be responsible for the costs of redaction.