New Workshop in UIPA Basics
Records Not Available to the Public
Recent OIP Opinion
State of Hawaii Attorney General Opinion Letters Online
OIP Staff Update
On Being Thankful
In its ongoing educational efforts, the Office of Information Practices
is now offering a workshop for government agency employees called
UIPA Basics. This course is designed for supervisors and upper level
managers who respond to record requests. It aims to instruct these
individuals in the purposes of the Uniform Information Practices
Act (Modified) ("UIPA"), the policies established by the
OIP, and the procedures to follow in responding to a request.
Each workshop will be conducted by an OIP staff attorney. In the
first half of the workshop the attorney covers the history of the
UIPA and its basic concepts, including the public’s rights
to inspect and copy records (Part II of the UIPA) and an individual’s
right to access "personal records" (Part III of the UIPA).
Instruction also covers important definitions in the law, exceptions
to the general rule that all government records are accessible to
the public, and exceptions to an individual’s right of access
to personal records.
So that everyone will be actively involved and their questions addressed,
class size for each session is limited. Each workshop member is
asked to bring in one agency record as a case study for the group
to apply the UIPA concepts learned. Participants are then tested
on their understanding of the law with hypothetical record requests.
The OIP provides the workshop attendees with a training guide to
use during the session and then take with them to use as a concise,
practical guide to the basics of the UIPA. The guide includes a
copy of the law, summaries of key concepts of the law, and past
issues of the Openline that provide guidance on accessing personal
records, handling record requests, and collecting and disclosing
social security numbers.
To date, the OIP has conducted UIPA Basics workshops for the Department
of Taxation, and upcoming workshops include one for the State’s
public information officers in November, and the University of Hawaii
and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in December 1997. Information
about workshops in April, May, and June of 1998 will appear in future
issues of Openline. Departments interested in a UIPA Basics workshop
should contact the Office of Information Practices at 586-1400.
The OIP expresses its appreciation for the expert
assistance of DHRD’s Training & Employee Development Branch
in the planning and scheduling of these workshops, and for the use
of the agency’s classroom in the Leiopapa a Kamehameha Building.
The UIPA protects government records from required agency disclosure
when the records fall within the scope of one or more of the UIPA’s
exceptions to required disclosure.
Of the 206 opinions issued by the OIP since 1989,
the OIP concluded in 43 instances that one or more of the UIPA’s
exceptions applied to certain government records in their entirety.
In 46 of its opinions, the OIP found that portions of government
records were protected by UIPA exceptions, while at the same time
finding other portions of the records to be public.
As a general rule, the OIP has concluded that, under
the UIPA, the following information should not be made available
for public inspection and copying: individuals’ birthdates
and social security numbers, retired public employees’ pension
benefits, police officers’ special duty pay, settlement agreements
during the negotiation process, and drafts of correspondence and
staff notes. Any exceptions to this general rule are dependent on
circumstances which may vary from case to case.
The UIPA exceptions most frequently cited by OIP opinions
as the basis for the unavailability of records are: (1) specific
statutes or court orders prohibiting disclosure of the records;
(2) the UIPA’s clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy exception;
and (3) the UIPA’s exception for the avoidance of the frustration
of a legitimate government function.
When a public requester asks for a government record that does not
exist, the agency is not required to create the record requested
under the UIPA. The agency need not maintain records under the UIPA,
although other statutes or rules may apply to the creation or maintenance
of government records. However, when a request is made for a government
record, the agency is required to make a reasonable search for that
record, and a burdensome request does not excuse compliance with
the UIPA. [OIP Opinion Letter No. 97-8, September 9, 1997]
On the Hawaii State Government Home Page (http://www.state.hi.us/)
click on Executive Branch, Departments and Agencies, then Department
of the Attorney General (AG), or use the URL (http://www.state.hi.us/ag/index.html)
for direct access. This takes you to a page that links users to
Web sites throughout the Department.
The selection for Opinion Letters from 1987 to 1992
is a direct link to the Hawaii State Bar Association page where
these Opinions are displayed in a table format (http://hsba.org/Hawaii/Admin/Ag/agindex.htm).
The Opinions from 1992 to the present are available in either a
table or framed format through the Department Attorney General's
Web site. In each of these selections, clicking on the letter of
your choice will give you access to a full-text online copy of that
Fabian A. Niemann joined the OIP as a law clerk in the beginning
of October. He graduated from the University of Bonn’s School
of Law, Germany in 1994. Mr. Niemann wrote his doctoral thesis on
comparative Copyright Law in Bonn and London and he is now preparing
for his final, practical examination (the "2. state examination").
Part of this practical education includes his being a Rechtsreferendar,
a legal intern studying abroad. Completion of this legal internship
is a requirement for practicing law in Germany. In his spare time
Fabian likes to travel and enjoys sports, especially hockey and
soccer. Although Herr Niemann has had to put his hockey career on
hold while doing time in the Aloha State, he has plans to compensate
with a little golf and windsurfing whenever he gets the chance.
With Thanksgiving here again, all of us at the Office of Information
Practices are thankful for the unalienable rights on which our nation
was founded. We pause, as Mr. Jefferson surely would in this amazing
age of information, to give thanks for life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness. And we wish you a peaceful and reflective holiday.