Openline October 1999

Posted on Oct 1, 1999 in Newsletter

OIP Helps Resolve Open Meetings Dispute 
New Rules Promote Access 
Privacy Study Update 
OIP Strong Supporter of Internet Access to Government Information 
Working for More Timely Assistance 
Recent OIP Opinion: Attempted Disclosure of Government Record
While OIP Opinion Is Pending

Editor’s Note: As the articles below attest, the past few weeks have been an especially eventful period for the OIP. Issues of open meetings, timely access to government records, electronic access to government information, and the collection and use of personal information by the private sector have kept the agency humming.

OIP Helps Resolve Open Meetings Dispute
The Office of Information Practices (“OIP”) recently stepped in to resolve a problem related to the open meetings law. The Honolulu Liquor Commission was considering a liquor license application from a wedding business. A majority of registered voters living in the vicinity of the wedding chapel had protested against the granting of the license and, as required by Section 281-59, Hawaii Revised Statutes, the Commission refused the license.

The wedding business asked the Liquor Commission to reconsider the application, and the Motion for Reconsideration was placed on the Commission’s August 26, 1999, agenda. At that meeting, however, the wedding business asked that the motion be continued. The Commission decided to continue the matter and allowed no further testimony, although members of the public, including the neighborhood opponents, asked to give oral testimony.

The Motion for Reconsideration appeared on the agenda for the Commission’s September 30, 1999, meeting. The neighborhood group then asked the OIP for assistance because they were concerned that the Commission might not allow testimony at that meeting.

Before the September 30 meeting, OIP Staff Attorney John Cole issued a recommendation to the Liquor Commission that, under Section 92-3, Hawaii Revised Statutes, it must give the public an opportunity to present oral testimony on an agenda item that is properly noticed, and brought up for discussion at a meeting.

At the September 30 meeting the Liquor Commission allowed public testimony and then refused to reconsider the liquor license application.

New Rules Promote Access
The OIP’s new administrative rules are intended to promote timely access to State and county government records. Agencies should keep the following key elements in mind when responding to record requests:

Section 2-71-11 of the rules provides for informal requests for access. This is the express lane. Routine and simple requests can always take this route, where the request does not have to be in writing and the agency can respond with a minimum of time and paperwork. 
Section 2-71-12 of the rules provides for formal requests. The OIP encourages requesters and agencies to use the two new model forms for faster and clearer communication between requester and agency.

Under the Uniform Information Practices Act (“UIPA”), all records are public unless one of the exceptions to disclosure applies. Chapter 92F-12, Hawaii Revised Statutes, gives a long list of records where disclosure is always required. For these records, because no portion can be withheld, an agency should always give rapid access. The OIP urges agencies to provide access to these as soon as is possible. 
For more information about the rules, see the section “Rules: Public Records; Model Forms” at

Privacy Study Update
At the request of the Hawaii State Legislature, the Office of Information Practices is conducting a study on the commercial use of personal information.

The goal of the privacy study is to determine how personal information is collected and used by the private sector, identify any problems with misuse of personal information, and make recommendations to the Legislature before the 2000 session.

One focus of the study is to determine how personal information flows within and between business sectors. For example, from the retail sector to the marketing sector, or from the insurance sector to the banking/finance sector. This type of cross-sector flow of personal information presents the greatest challenge to protecting the privacy of the ordinary citizen’s personal information, because standards for handling data may differ between sectors.

The OIP has distributed a data flow analysis questionnaire to businesses and organizations in Hawaii and on the Mainland.

To give members of the public the opportunity to address the issues covered by the study and voice their concerns, the OIP conducted a public hearing on October 29, 1999, at the State Capitol Building.A hearing by video conference for the islands of Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii was held on November 2, 1999.

For more information about the privacy study, including the questionnaire, visit

OIP Strong Supporter of Internet Access 
to Government Information
Government agencies are moving quickly to make public information more accessible via the Internet. The OIP has been an active member of the State’s web users group, which seeks to improve agency web sites. In addition, the OIP strongly supports the efforts of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to build a government wide service and informational portal. This portal should vastly improve electronic access to government information.

In Hawaii one has only to visit the home page of state government ( to see how large this body of government information has grown. The OIP’s own web site ( is only one of many providing a steady stream of information from State and county agencies.

Working for More Timely Assistance
The Office of Information Practices is stepping up its efforts to ensure timely access to State and county government records. Faced with a backlog of requests for assistance from government agencies and the public, the OIP is reviewing requests as quickly as possible.

To keep pace with the demand for assistance, the OIP is encouraging agencies to respond to all record requests following the rules. Agencies should contact the OIP only when there is a legitimate dispute over the record being requested.

In addition, the OIP is taking other initiatives to speed up the line for the queue of requesters. The OIP has been producing “guidance letters,” rather than formal opinion letters, to give more timely answers. The formal opinion letters themselves are becoming shorter.

As of the middle of October, there were 227 outstanding requests for opinions and requests for assistance, and more requests coming in every week. The OIP apologizes for the delay in assistance and asks for your understanding of the circumstances involved, including major budget cuts during the 1998 legislative session that meant lost funding for four positions and 60% of operating expenses.

Recent OIP Opinion: Attempted Disclosure of Government Record
While OIP Opinion Is Pending
A requester who was refused access to health insurance contracts with a community hospital asked the OIP for an opinion on whether the information requested was public. While the OIP opinion letter (No. 98-2) was still being drafted, the requester had discussions with a State senator about these contracts.

The senator requested, and was given, a copy of the hospital’s contract with the insurance company. The requester alleged that the Senator then attempted to give the contract to him, but he refused to take the copy .

The requester asked the OIP whether the Senator violated section 84-12, Hawaii Revised Statutes, by obtaining a copy of the contract under section 92F-19, Hawaii Revised Statutes, and then attempting to give a copy to the requester.

Section 92F-19 allows agencies to share private or confidential information with the legislature or a county council. Section 84-12 forbids legislators from disclosing confidential information acquired in the course of the legislator’s official duties.

The OIP opined that the Senator did not violate chapter 92F because the information he attempted to give to the requester was always public (see OIP Opinion Letter No. 98-2, April 24, 1998). [OIP Op. Ltr. No. 99-4, October 15, 1999]