Full transparency is difficult to achieve at the Hawaii insurance commissioner’s office. That’s because the financial disclosures of the commissioner and his senior staff are confidential by law, according to the State Integrity Investigation.

Hawaii received an overall F, or 57 percent, grade in the State Insurance Commissions category. That put us in 37th place, tied with North Dakota. Mississippi came in first. At the bottom was Wyoming.

The state earned zeros for all six questions in this category covering financial disclosures.

Overall, the State Integrity Investigation ranked Hawaii 10th after Civil Beat reporters researched 330 “Corruption Risk Indicators” across 14 categories of government. (Click here to learn more about the methodology used for the project.)

Bottom line: Financial disclosures are a key tool for monitoring conflict of interest. But the disclosures of the commissioner — and his senior staff — are confidential, by law.

Here’s the basis for the 0-percent grade that contributed to the overall 57 percent score in the State Insurance Commissions category. It’s your turn to evaluate whether Civil Beat got it right and to share what you think should be done to improve the situation. Share your comments at the bottom of this story.

Here’s the first question the State Integrity Investigation asked regarding state insurance commissions.

Can citizens access the asset disclosure records of the state insurance commission?

Overall score: 0%

Here are the criteria Civil Beat used to answer that question and what Civil Beat found.

1. In law, citizens can access the asset disclosure records of the the members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission.

Notes: There is no state insurance commission, but there is a state insurance commissioner. The state insurance commissioner is required to file financial disclosure forms to the State Ethics Commission. Under the law, the commissioner’s financial disclosures are confidential. (A previous version of this story did not specify that state law prohibits the Ethics Commission from releasing the commissioner’s disclosures.) However, the state department directors and their deputies are required to be open records for public inspection.

Sources:

Hawaii Revised Statutes, Chapter 84 Standards of Conduct, Part II. Code of Ethics, §84-17, subsection 9. Requirements of disclosure. Visit (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol02_Ch0046-0115/HRS0084/HRS_0084-0017.htm) for details.

Score: 0%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Yes: A YES score is earned if the members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission file an asset disclosure form that is, in law, accessible to the public (individuals, CSOs, or journalists).
No: A NO score is earned if there is no asset disclosure for the members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission. A NO score is also earned if the form is filed but is not available to the public.

2. In practice, citizens can access the asset disclosure records of the the members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission within a reasonable time period.

Notes: There is no state insurance commission, but there is a state insurance commissioner. State Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito said he filed his financial disclosure, but he did not check if the information is accessible to the public. Former state Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt said he also filed his financial disclosure with the State Ethics Commission, but he never checked if it was publicly available. The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Director Keali’ilalauikulani S. Lopez and Deputy Director Everett S. Kaneshige financial disclosures were posted on the State Ethics Commission’s website. Under the law, the insurance commissioner’s financial disclosures are confidential. (A previous version of this story did not specify that state law prohibits the Ethics Commission from releasing the commissioner’s disclosures.)

Sources:

• Gordon Ito, insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/28/11, telephone interview.

• J.P. Schmidt, former insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/30/11, telephone interview.

Score: 0%

Scoring criteria:
These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Records are available online, or records can be obtained within two days. Records are uniformly available; there are no delays for politically sensitive information.
Fair: Records take around two weeks to obtain. Some additional delays may be experienced.
Very Weak: Records take more than a month to acquire. In some cases, records may be available sooner, but there may be persistent delays in obtaining politically sensitive records.

3. In practice, citizens can access the asset disclosure records of the members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission at a reasonable cost.

Notes: There is no state insurance commission, but there is a state insurance commissioner. Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito said he filed his financial disclosure, but he did not check if the information is accessible to the public. Former Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt said he also filed his financial disclosure with the State Ethics Commission, but he never checked if it was publicly available. The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Director Keali’ilalauikulani S. Lopez and Deputy Director Everett S. Kaneshige financial disclosures were posted on the State Ethics Commission’s website. But under the law, the insurance commissioner’s financial disclosures are confidential. (A previous version of this story did not specify that state law prohibits the Ethics Commission from releasing the commissioner’s disclosures.)

Sources:

• Gordon Ito, insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/28/11, telephone interview.

• J.P. Schmidt, former insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/30/11, telephone interview.

Score: 0%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Records are free to all citizens, or available for the cost of photocopying. Records can be obtained at little cost, such as by mail or online.
Fair: Cost of obtaining records impose a financial burden on citizens, journalists, or CSOs. Retrieving records may require a visit to a specific office, such as the state capitol.
Very Weak: Retrieving records imposes a major financial burden on citizens. Records’ costs are prohibitive to most citizens, journalists, or CSOs trying to access this information.

4. In practice, the asset disclosure records of the members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission are of high quality.

Notes: There is no state insurance commission, but there is a state insurance commissioner. Former state Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt said he provided information such as his sources of income, investments and financial interests on his financial disclosure form. State Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito said he also filled out his financial disclosures. Under the law, the insurance commissioner’s financial disclosures are confidential. (A previous version of this story did not specify that state law prohibits the Ethics Commission from releasing the commissioner’s disclosures.)

Sources:

• Gordon Ito, insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/28/11, telephone interview.

• J.P. Schmidt, former insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/30/11, telephone interview.

Score: 0%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: The asset disclosure records of the the members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission are complete and detailed, providing the public with an accurate and updated accounting of the individuals’ sources of income, investments, and other financial interests.
Fair: The asset disclosure records of the members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission contain some useful information but may be lacking important details, including politically sensitive investment or other financial arrangements in which the individual has an interest.
Very Weak: The asset disclosure records of the members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission are overly general, lack any meaningful detail, and do not provide a clear accounting of the individuals’ sources of income, investments, and other financial assets.

5. In practice, the asset disclosure records of members of the board and senior staff of the state insurance commission are accessible to the public online in a meaningful and accessible manner.

Notes: There is no state insurance commission, but there is a state insurance commissioner. State Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito said he filled out his financial disclosure form on the website, printed it out and turned it in to the State Ethics Commission. Ito said his financial disclosure was not available online. Former state Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt said he also filed his financial disclosure with the State Ethics Commission, but he never checked if it was publicly available. The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Director Keali’ilalauikulani S. Lopez and Deputy Director Everett S. Kaneshige financial disclosures were posted on the State Ethics Commission’s website. But under the law, the insurance commissioner’s financial disclosures are confidential. The Ethics Commission is prohibited from posting confidential disclosures online. (A previous version of this story did not specify that state law prohibits the Ethics Commission from releasing the commissioner’s disclosures.)

Sources:

• Gordon Ito, insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/28/11, telephone interview.

• J.P. Schmidt, former insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/30/11, telephone interview.

Score: 0%

Scoring criteria:
These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: The information is available online and is as complete as possible, including any raw or meta data necessary to fully understand how the final information was generated. The information is primary source data, is made available in real-time or within a matter of weeks, is available to the public via an Application Programming Interface (API), and is machine readable. Anyone can access the information at any time, and there is no cost burden on the public in downloading or accessing the information. The information is archived and/or available online in perpetuity, and there are no licensing restrictions limiting its use.
Fair: The information is available online and is generally accessible, but some exceptions exist. Some information may not be machine readable (for example, locked in PDF format) and third-party programs or software may be required to process and use the information once it is downloaded. Certain licensing restrictions may impose a burden on sharing the information and/or analysis of the information.
Very Weak: The information is not available online, or is available online in such a format as to render it useless for the majority of the public. Special skills and/or software are required to process the information, and the information is not machine readable and must be manually “scraped” in order to analyze it in bulk. Significant cost and/or licensing barriers pose major hurdles in the public accessing or using the information.

6. In practice, asset disclosures for members of the state insurance commission are audited.

Notes: There is no state insurance commission, but there is a state insurance commissioner. Both state Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito and former state Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt did not know if their financial disclosures were audited. Hawaii State Ethics Commission does not audit financial disclosures, according to executive director Les Kondo.

Les Kondo responds: Regarding the statement “the Ethics Commission does not ‘audit’ any of the financial disclosure statements that are filed with the Ethics Commission,” Kondo writes, “That statement is not completely accurate. It depends on your definition of “audit.” It is true that, absent an issue being brought to our attention, we generally do not independently confirm information reported, at least with respect to the sections other than those requiring reporting of income and business ownership. However, we do review the filings. And, where there is an obvious omission or error, we do follow up with the filer. And, if an issue is raised to our attention, we “audit” that filer’s statement to determine whether the issue merits further action by the Ethics Commission.”

Sources:

• Gordon Ito, insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/28/11, telephone interview.

• J.P. Schmidt, former insurance commissioner, Hawaii Insurance Division, 9/30/11, telephone interview.

• Les Kondo, executive director, Hawaii State Ethics Commission, 10/7/11, telephone interview.

Score: 0%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Asset disclosures of members of the state insurance commission are regularly audited using generally accepted auditing practices.
Fair: Asset disclosures of members of the state insurance commission are audited, but audits are limited in some way, such as using inadequate auditing standards, or the presence of exceptions to disclosed assets.
Very Weak: Asset disclosures of members of the state insurance commission are not audited, or the audits performed have no value. Audits may be performed by entities known to be partisan or biased in their practices.

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