The State Office of Information Practices has posted its Annual Report for FY 2020 on the Reports page of its website. Despite the temporary suspension of its powers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor’s emergency orders, OIP continued to work and ended FY 2020 with the lowest number of pending formal cases in over a decade. Although the number of new cases increased by 8.5% in FY 2020, OIP was able to close 193 formal cases and reduce its backlog by 18.3% from the prior year. It ended with 67 pending formal cases, with only 19 of them filed before FY 2020 and the oldest ones held up due to litigation or awaiting responses from the parties. Moreover, when informal requests for assistance are counted, OIP resolved 96% of all FY 2020 requests in the same year, and 85% of them usually within the same day.
OIP’s successes in FY 2020 have been short-lived, however, because it lost two experienced staff attorneys and its Administrative Assistant in early FY 2021 due to retirement and personal reasons, and these three positions have not yet been filled due to the State’s hiring freeze. With 35% less staff, the number of pending cases has steadily increased. While it took OIP over a decade to nearly eliminate the backlog that built up since the 2008 recession, it has taken only five months of FY 2021 for the number of pending formal cases to increase by 40%.
With only six employees remaining (one part-time) and a declining budget, OIP will do what it can to fulfill its many statutory responsibilities. Nevertheless, OIP remains optimistic that the new vaccines will help to improve Hawaii’s health and economic challenges and wishes everyone a much happier New Year in 2021!