U Memo 11-5

Posted on Oct 1, 2010 in Informal Opinions - UIPA Opinions

U Memo 11-5
October 1, 2010
Microorganism Names

Requester asked whether the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (DOA) properly denied Requester’s request under part II of the UIPA for approved import permits for import of restricted microorganisms (Import Permits). The DOA disclosed the permits in redacted form, and Requester specifically challenged the redaction of several virus names.

DOA, as the agency responding to Requester’s request, was prepared to disclose the Import Permits, including the identities of all microorganisms listed in the permits. However, DOA first contacted the University of Hawaii (UH) and other permittees prior to disclosing the permits to determine whether the permittees considered information about laboratory locations to be confidential under the UIPA. In response, UH asked DOA to withhold not only the laboratory location information, but also the identities of three viruses. DOA withheld the information at UH’s request and it was UH, rather than DOA, that argued against disclosure of the information in response to Requester’s appeal

OIP found that UH had not met its burden to establish that disclosure of the virus identities would frustrate a legitimate governmental function by either disclosing information whose disclosure by federal agencies is prohibited by federal law or by preventing UH from ensuring that the viruses are handled safely. See HRS §§ 92F-13(3) and -15(c). Thus, the virus identities must be disclosed.