OIP GUIDANCE ON UIPA: COMPLEX RECORD REQUESTS AND ‘PUBLIC INTEREST’ FEE WAIVERS

Posted on Jan 18, 2012 in What's New

January 18, 2012

The Office of Information Practices (OIP) is often asked for advice on dealing with particularly large or complex record requests that agencies receive under the state’s Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), Chapter 92F, Hawaii Revised Statutes. The fact that a request will require extensive agency efforts to respond is not, by itself, a basis for the agency to deny that request; however, OIP’s rules set out at chapter 2-71, Hawaii Administrative Rules, do provide government agencies with some tools in handling such a request in a way that will not unreasonably interfere with their normal functions. Although a complex request may have unique aspects for which an agency will require individual advice, there are many common issues that arise for agencies responding to such requests. 

OIP has attached and posted online a new Informal Guide to Processing Large or Complex UIPA Record Requests that basically compiles general legal advice provided primarily through OIP’s Attorney of the Day service. Although OIP has provided references to the relevant rules where appropriate, this guide is intended as informal advice and is not intended to replace such sources as the rules themselves, the Impact Statement for the rules, or formal opinions that have interpreted the rules. Additional guidelines and forms to respond to record requests are in OIP’s Open Records Guide to Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act, which can be found on OIP’s website at http://hawaii.gov/oip.

Additionally, OIP issued the attached letter to the American Civil Liberties Union, which provides guidance as to when the $60 “public interest” waiver of search, review, and segregation fees should be granted by an agency under the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA). Noting that nonprofit organizations and public interest groups do not automatically qualify for the public interest fees waiver when making records requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act, OIP concluded that a public interest fee waiver could be denied under the UIPA when a requester offers merely conclusory or general statements without sufficient facts to demonstrate its “primary intention and actual ability to widely disseminate information.” A requester must further demonstrate that the requested record pertains to an agency’s operation or activities; however, the record’s relative importance to the public is not a factor. OIP will generally decline to review an agency’s factual determinations and will respect the agency’s decision as to whether a request for a “public interest” fee waiver fulfills the criteria set forth in OIP’s administrative rules. To make the guidance letter readily accessible, OIP has posted it under the “Openline/Guidance” section of OIP’s website at hawaii.gov/oip.