U Memo 21-5

Posted on Apr 15, 2021 in Informal Opinions - UIPA Opinions

U Memo 21-5
April 15, 2021
Emails; Investigation Records

This opinion consolidated two appeals from the same requester of responses by the Department of Education (DOE) to two separate record requests.   

The first appeal asked whether DOE properly denied access to emails between a DOE employee and four individuals.  OIP found that, notwithstanding DOE’s arguments that the emails are protected under section 92F-13(3), HRS (the UIPA’s frustration exception), the Hawaii Supreme Court has decided that decisionmaking fundamentally is not a government function that may be frustrated under section 92F-13(3), HRS.  OIP therefore found that the emails must be disclosed except for personal email addresses and telephone numbers, which may be withheld under the UIPA’s privacy exception at section 92F-13(1), HRS, and direct business email addresses and telephone numbers not already made public, which may be withheld under section 92F-13(3), HRS. 

The second appeal asked whether DOE properly denied access to investigation records pertaining to a complaint filed by the requester against a DOE employee. 

The investigation was ongoing at the time of the record request.  DOE denied access to a draft investigation report and witness statements and submittals.  Because the investigation was still pending, OIP found that DOE properly withheld the draft investigation report at the time of the request under sections 92F-22(4) and 92F-13(3), HRS.  OIP also found that DOE was authorized to withhold the witness identities and statements and submittals to the extent necessary to protect witness identities under sections 92F-22(2) and 92F-13(3), HRS, and because they were part of a pending investigation at the time of the request, DOE was also allowed to withhold them as a whole under section 92F-22(4), HRS.  

For the second appeal, the requester also questioned DOE’s assertion that it had found all responsive records.  OIP found DOE’s explanation of its search for responsive records reasonable and concluded that it has no further duty under the UIPA to search for records.