Congratulations to the State Office of Information Practices’ Administrative Assistant, Zoe Abrams, on her marriage! This joyful news about Zoe, however, means that she has moved to the mainland and has had to leave OIP. We miss her a lot!
Unfortunately, with the State’s hiring freeze and anticipated budget cuts and furloughs, OIP is uncertain when it can hire replacements for Zoe and two staff attorneys who left earlier this fiscal year. While OIP has lost one-third of its staff, new cases continue to be filed and other work must also be done. Thus, despite OIP’s FY 2020 success in reducing its formal case backlog to the lowest level in a decade, the backlog has already grown by one-third in the first three months of FY 2021 and the situation will only worsen with the anticipated furloughs. Consequently, OIP estimates that it will likely take over a year to resolve appeals and requests for opinions, due to the more extensive research and work involved in such cases. If possible, OIP will provide more timely correspondence without opinions, or requesters can exercise their right to go directly to court for dispute resolution. In any event, OIP asks for everyone’s understanding and help to get through these tough times.
OIP will strive to provide quick, informal advice through its Attorney of the Day (AOD) service, especially if those requests are emailed to [email protected]. Due to teleworking and staggered work days at OIP, requesters are more likely to get faster responses from OIP via email, but you may also leave a voicemail as it is checked regularly.
Despite the supplemental emergency proclamations that continue to suspend UIPA deadlines, OIP also asks that government agencies promptly acknowledge or reply to record requests from the public and to OIP’s requests during investigations, since they will eventually have to do so anyway. Requesters, agencies and boards should also try to amicably work things out before filing a complaint with OIP. Please pick your battles carefully and do not engage in petty tactics that do not add to the merits of your case and will unnecessarily distract OIP from being able to resolve the cases that are pending before yours. Remember that OIP is a neutral entity, and not anyone’s personal law firm. With only three remaining staff attorneys and no Administrative Assistant to support them at this time, OIP is doing its best to reasonably and impartially utilize its limited resources to assist all State, county, and independent agencies, Sunshine Law boards, and the general public. MAHALO for your help and understanding.