U Memo 18-4Posted on Mar 29, 2018 in Informal Opinions - UIPA Opinions
U Memo 18-4
March 29, 2018
Requester asked the Planning Department, County of Hawaii (PLAN-H) to disclose the name of the person who filed a complaint about Requester’s property. PLAN-H denied his record request. Requester appealed PLAN-H’s denial, asserting that public disclosure of the complainant’s name would allow a property owner to “know which neighbor to speak with if an issue comes up” and noted that, “if the complainer/accuser is just a business rival with an ax to grind, it becomes more evident what the motivations are.”
In OIP Opinion Letter No. 89-12, OIP had addressed the issue of whether the UIPA required PLAN-H to disclose a complainant’s identity. OIP opined that “[m]andatory public access to information about complainants’ identities would frustrate agencies’ legitimate enforcement function because agencies would be less likely to receive incriminating information at the initiative of private citizens.” OIP Op. Ltr. No. 89-12 at 4. Therefore, OIP concluded that the complainant’s identity is protected from required public disclosure by the UIPA’s exception allowing agencies to withhold information in order to avoid the “frustration of a legitimate government function.” HRS § 92F-13(3).
Also, in OIP Opinion Letter No. 89-12, OIP opined that “a complainant under the UIPA would have a significant privacy interest in the disclosure of his [or her] identity since disclosure makes the complainant an identifiable target for retribution and harassment.” OIP Op. Ltr. No. 89-12 at 5. OIP concluded that “[i]n the absence of a countervailing public interest,” the complainant’s identity is also protected from required public disclosure by the UIPA’s “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” exception. Id.; HRS § 92F-13(1).
Therefore, consistent with its conclusion in OIP Opinion Letter No. 89-12, OIP believes that, in the present case, PLAN-H properly withheld the complainant’s name under the UIPA’s exceptions for a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” and “frustration of a legitimate government function.” HRS § 92F-13(1), (3) (2012).