U Memo 17-5

Posted on Jun 21, 2017 in Informal Opinions - UIPA Opinions

U Memo 17-5
June 21, 2017
Redacted Complaint

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO) enforces licensing laws for various professional boards, commissions, and programs that are administratively attached to DCCA.  Requesters made a record request for a redacted copy of a complaint that had been filed by someone else against a doctor with the RICO internal number MED 2013 0001L (Complaint).  Requesters essentially asked RICO to publicly disclose the Complaint after redacting information that is exempt from disclosure under the UIPA.  RICO denied access to the entire Complaint.  Requesters asked OIP for a decision as to whether RICO’s denial was proper under Part II of the UIPA.

Section 92F-14(b)(7), HRS, states that an individual has a significant privacy interest in information compiled as part of an inquiry into an individual’s fitness to be granted or to retain a license, with three exceptions.  The first exception at section 92F-14(b)(7)(A), HRS, did not apply to the Complaint.

The third exception at section 92F-14(b)(7)(C), HRS, provides that there is no significant privacy interest in the “record of complaints including all dispositions” for a license holder.  The Complaint is not a “record of complaints including all dispositions” for the doctor complained of, and as such, the Complaint continues to carry the significant privacy interest of the doctor.  The doctor’s significant privacy interest in the Complaint provided by section 92F-14(b)(7), HRS, must therefore be weighed against the public interest in disclosure as required by section 92F-14(a), HRS.  The public interest to be considered under the UIPA’s privacy balancing test is whether the information “sheds light upon the workings of government.”  RICO argued that the Complaint “does little to reveal anything about RICO’s performance of its statutory purpose or duties to receive, investigate, and prosecute licensing complaints.”  Thus, RICO argued, the doctor’s significant privacy interest in the contents of the Complaint is greater than the public’s interest in disclosure.

On the balance, OIP found that the doctor’s privacy interest in the Complaint outweighs the public interest in disclosure.  RICO may withhold access to most of the Complaint, to avoid a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy as allowed by section 92F-13(1), HRS.  In accordance with the exception at section 92F-14(b)(7)(B), HRS, however,  the doctor’s name, business address and business telephone number are public under the UIPA.  If Requesters clarify that they would like a redacted copy of the Complaint with only that information showing and prepay fees and costs in accordance with OIP’s administrative rules, then RICO was advised to provide Requesters with a redacted copy of the Complaint with only these items of information left unredacted.