Openline January 1998

Posted on Jan 1, 1998 in Newsletter

Highlights from the 1997 Annual Report
Statistics from the 1997 Annual Report
Recent OIP Opinions
Next Issue

Highlights from the 1997 Annual Report

The Office of Information Practices recently completed its 1997 Annual Report and is distributing this publication. Here is a brief summary of some of the highlights from the new annual report.

Requests for Assistance
In Fiscal Years 96 and 97, the OIP staff reviewed its outstanding case load and closed a total of 471 cases. This provided the OIP with a more accurate account of pending work and allows the OIP to channel its efforts far more efficiently. During this time, the OIP continued to receive numerous new requests for assistance. As of the close of FY 97, the OIP has 237 pending assignments, of which 179 are requests for legal opinions and 58 are requests for assistance or guidance.

In 1997, the OIP reviewed over 170 legislative proposals, and monitored 132 of those measures as they progressed through the Legislature. This was a substantial increase in legislative involvement wherein the OIP contributed more testimony, advice, and guidance to the legislative process than it has at any time in its eight-year history. All the bills tracked by the OIP in 1997 affected governmentÕs information practices, including public access to government records and the privacy rights of individuals.

The OIP also consulted with several government agencies and elected officials in the drafting of legislation during the 1997 legislative session, primarily sex offender registration, access to voter registration records, child support enforcement, vital statistics data, DLIR HIOSH reports, and medical privacy.

Training and Education
In 1997, the OIP developed a new “UIPA Basics” workshop in which the purposes, requirements, and policies of the UIPA are taught. The OIP has begun training small groups of government employees to ensure that they understand the spirit of the public records law and their role as trustees of government information.

Three State agencies, as well as the State’s Public Information Officers, have already taken part in the new UIPA Basics workshop. More agencies will receive training in this workshop during the remainder of the 1997-1998 fiscal year.

Other Features
The 1997 Annual Report also provides updates on the status of the UIPA’s administrative rules and litigation involving government records, and features a special section on international and national developments in information practices.

Copies Going Out to Public Libraries
Copies of the 1997 Annual Report are being forwarded to the State’s public library system. Any government agencies wishing to obtain copies of this report should contact the OIP at the phone number or address at the bottom of this column.

Statistics from the 1997 Annual Report

Records Report System:

Total Number of Records Reported: 32,893
Increase Since December 1995: 4,833 [17%]

Number of “Live” Records on the RRS: 29,340
Increase Since December 1995: 5,421 [22%]

Access Classifications of Records on the RRS
(October 1997)
Public 60%
Confidential/ 21%
Confidential 16%
Undetermined 3%

Telephone Inquiries to the OIP in 1997:

Types of Telephone Requesters (Fiscal Year 1997)
Government Agencies 54%
The Public 38%
Government Attorney 8%

Calls About State Agencies (Top Six)
Attorney General 9.6%
Human Services 8.0%
Health 7.8%
Education 7.6%
University of Hawaii 7.4%
Commerce &
Consumer Affairs 6.5%

Recent OIP Opinions

Hawaii Natural Heritage Program Database
The Hawaii Natural Heritage Program (“HINHP”) database provided by The Nature Conservancy to the Office of Planning and incorporated into the State geographic information system (“State GIS”) is exempt from disclosure as confidential commercial information which, if disclosed, would result in the frustration of a legitimate government function. The HINHP database is a comprehensive compilation of the geographic location and status of rare species and ecosystems in the State of Hawaii, which is available in such a complete form only from The Nature Conservancy.

The OIP determined that disclosure of the HINHP database would result in substantial competitive harm to The Nature Conservancy and would impair the State’s ability to get further such information from The Nature Conservancy. Such impairment would frustrate the ability of State agencies to effectively carry out their planning and environmental protection functions. [OIP Op. Ltr. No. 97-9, December 17, 1997]

Experience Certificates In Applications for Contractors Licenses
Prior to a Contractors License Board decision on an application for a contractors license, experience certificates submitted as part of the application are exempt from disclosure under the UIPA’s exception for disclosure that would constitute “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” In balancing the individual’s privacy interest against the public interest in disclosure, the OIP considered the Legislature’s determination that an individual has a significant privacy interest in the information contained in the experience certificates as “information compiled as part of an inquiry into an individual’s fitness to be granted…a license.”

While the requester suggested that disclosure prior to board action on the application would enhance the public’s ability to comment on an applicant’s qualification for licensure, the public interest in disclosure under the UIPA lies in reviewing the government’s actions. Because, prior to board action on an application, no government action has occurred, the OIP determined that public interest in disclosure does not outweigh the individual’s significant privacy interest in the information contained in the experience certificates. [OIP Op. Ltr. No. 97-10, December 30, 1997]

Next Issue:
The February issue of Openline will feature the OIP’s yearly review of bills from the Legislature affecting information practices. And later in the year look for articles on records that are always confidential (“you can’t always get what you want”), privacy issues and the Internet, and a look at watchdog agencies on the Internet. In addition, Openline will review information practices in the international community.