U Memo 16-6

Posted on May 6, 2016 in Informal Opinions - UIPA Opinions

U Memo 16-6
May 6, 2016
E-mails Maintained by Agencies Are Government Records

Two Requesters first asked whether an e-mail between an individual and a government agency or between two agencies is a government record under Part II of the UIPA.  Requesters did not ask OIP for a decision regarding a specific e-mail or a specific record request.  OIP advised that an e-mail may be maintained by a government agency in electronic, paper, or perhaps other physical form.  All e-mails maintained by government agencies in a physical form are subject to the UIPA under a plain reading of the UIPA’s definition of “government record.”  E-mails maintained by agencies may be withheld from public disclosure to the extent that any of the exceptions in section 92F-13, HRS, apply.

Second, Requesters asked whether an e-mail containing personal information is a personal record under Part III of the UIPA that is subject to requests for correction or amendment.  The UIPA requires that agencies that maintain “any accessible personal record shall make that record available to the individual to whom it pertains, in a reasonably prompt manner and in a reasonably intelligible form[.]” If an e-mail maintained by an agency contains information about an individual, i.e., a natural person, then the portions about that individual are the individual’s personal record.  Individuals may request access to their personal records under Part III of the UIPA and may request that an agency correct or amend a personal record in accordance with sections 92F‑23 through -25, HRS.  An e-mail maintained by a government agency may be withheld from disclosure to the individual whom the record is about if any of the exemptions in section 92F-22, HRS, apply.

Agencies may impose copying charges as allowed by section 92-21, HRS, for copies of government and personal records.  Agencies may also charge search, review, and segregation fees for government records as allowed by chapter 2-71, Hawaii Administrative Rules.