Mid-Summer Report from the Director
OIP Staff Update
At the Crossroads:
Mid-Summer Report from the Director
Editor's note: July 1998 marks another crossroads
for the Office of Information Practices. The first half of the year
brought a number of significant changes, including budget and staff
reductions. The agency has a new administrative home (Office of
the Lieutenant Governor), new proposed administrative rules awaiting
public hearing, and a new and growing web site to provide information
and guidance to government agencies and the public 24 hours a day,
7 days a week.
The OIP looks different and will operate somewhat
differently in the months ahead, in part because of the recent cuts
in staff and operating budget. (For the changes in staff, please
see the "OIP Staff Update" below.) In the following report
the Director, Moya T. Davenport Gray, addresses these and other
changes. This report is adapted from the Director's recent remarks
to the Honolulu Community Media Council.
New Home for OIP
Since its creation in 1988, the Office of Information Practices
has been administratively attached to the Department of the Attorney
General. On June 24, 1998, the Governor signed Senate Bill 2983
into law as Act 137. This act moves the OIP to the Office of the
Lieutenant Governor as an administratively attached, temporary agency,
effective July 1, 1998. Other agencies currently attached to the
Office of the Lieutenant Governor include the Office of Elections,
the Campaign Spending Commission, and the Commission on the Status
Open Meetings Complaints
Act 137 also gives the OIP the responsibility to receive and resolve
complaints on open meetings. The original open meetings law (Chapter
92, Hawaii Revised Statutes, often referred to as the "Sunshine
Law") was not designed to receive and resolve complaints about
open meetings. However, as the OIP is "the People's Court"
for open records, it seems logical for the OIP to take complaints
about open meetings.
Significant Budget Cuts
The Legislature cut $216,776 and three of eight permanent positions
at the OIP. In total this means that funding for four positions
was eliminated and 60% of the OIP's operating expenses was cut.
This cut will reduce services to government agencies and the public.
The backlog of requests for assistance, which the OIP has successfully
reduced these past years, likely will grow.
The OIP plans to continue publishing its monthly newsletter,
Openline, as its main educational tool. Because of funding cuts,
however, the OIP will need to restrict severely, or eliminate, plans
to train and educate government employees. As an alternative, the
OIP is considering using its web site to offer easy-access training.
Hawaii adopted the Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified)
("UIPA") in 1988 and created a right to look at government
records. Unfortunately, this "house of public records"
had no doors or windows to get to the records. Although you could
"knock" at the door, government did not have to answer
that door in anything but a "reasonable" time. The rules
that the OIP is proposing create the doors and windows to Hawaii's
house of public records by setting time periods for government's
After a two-year wait, the OIP has now received approval
to hold public hearings on its proposed rules. In December 1995,
both the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the OIP's Openline ran front
page stories on the OIP's proposed rules. The OIP circulated the
proposed rules to the public for comment, including the Reporter's
Committee on the Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C.
With the Governor's decision to take these rules to
public hearing, the OIP can now provide the rules to the public.
In addition, the OIP held four state-wide informational briefings
in May and June of 1998. These briefings gave attendees an opportunity
to learn how the proposed rules would work if adopted. The OIP will
schedule public hearings later this year.
Notice of Litigation
On May 26, 1998, the Governor signed into law House Bill 2774 as
Act 82. This act, which took effect upon the signing, requires that
the OIP be notified in writing at the time a civil action relating
to Chapter 92F, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is filed. The OIP prefers
to receive a copy of the complaint. This notification gives the
OIP the opportunity to intervene in the action, representing the
The Office of Information Practices now has its own web site, at
www.state.hi.us/oip. A variety of information--including the law,
guidance, Openline, the proposed rules and impact statement, the
1998 legislation tracking report, and links to the OIP's opinions
(which are hosted by the Hawaii State Bar Association)--is posted
on the site.
In the near future, the OIP will post portions of
its Annual Reports and, for ease with research, summaries of its
opinions. The OIP is also exploring the web site's potential for
training, including online self-guided training on the basics of
the UIPA and on the new rules.
The Office of Information Practices is charged with implementing
the balance in the UIPA between two important principles. The OIP
remains committed to (1) promoting access to public records and
(2) protecting the privacy of individuals. This commitment has fueled
the work of many dedicated OIP employees since the office was established
ten years ago.
With all the change and challenges of this year, the
OIP requests your understanding and support as it seeks to build
on the work of the past.
OIP Staff Update
Because of recent budget cuts by the Legislature, the Office of
Information Practices is losing several valued staff members, effective
July 1, 1998. The office bids aloha and farewell to the following
Aida Mercades has served honorably as the office receptionist
since 1990. Aida has been the friendly voice and face of the OIP,
greeting callers and walk-ins and offering assistance, while also
handling a great variety of assignments. Within the office, Aida
has been a friend and shining light to all her fellow workers. The
familiar advice of "ask Aida" will be replaced by "we
miss Aida." When Aida walks out the door for the last time
a large piece of office history will go with her. Aida, we wish
you only the best always.
J. Andrew Laurence has served diligently for two years
as publications clerk: writing and editing for Openline, the annual
reports, and other publications. In addition, Andrew monitored legislation
for the past two sessions, work that benefited both the OIP and
the public. For those who had the privilege to work alongside him,
Andrew has been a revelation: an Alabama native without a southern
accent, a vegetarian who was once spotted at McDonald's, and the
environmental conscience of the office, raising recycling to an
art form. Andrew, our loss is the world's gain.
Jennifer Chock has performed distinguished work as
a staff attorney for the past two years. Jenny is best known for
her legal insights, sharp wit, and surfing exploits. Jenny is a
born trainer: she has taught us how to eat (and pronounce) Vietnamese
pho, how to make intricate computer charts, how to assess the University
of Hawaii volleyball teams, and how to sew your own clothes. Jenny,
we wish you well.
Paul McDonald, who has never been spotted at McDonald's,
has brought his considerable computer expertise to the OIP for the
past nine months. Paul has been extremely generous in sharing this
knowledge with the office. He has set up several important databases
and solved many a software problem. Paul, we also learned, is a
master of the office prank, and he has been equally generous with
these pranks, thus lightening some stressful times. Paul, we owe
you a few!