The Office of Information Practices, or OIP, is the state agency tasked with administering Hawaii’s open government laws. The OIP lists its mission as, “ensuring open government while protecting individual privacy.”
The agency, which falls under the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, was established in 1988 to “protect the public’s interest” by ensuring that government processes are as transparent as possible.
Civil Beat reported in 2011 that the Honolulu Police Department was deliberating whether or not its public records protocol complied with Hawaii open records law. OIP in September 2011 advised the city that the law required disclosure of the name, title and salaries of all city employees unless the employee was at some point involved in “undercover law enforcement activity.”
However, unlike every other government agency in Hawaii and Honolulu, HPD did not provide Civil Beat with such records.
Leadership Change in 2011
In April 2011, Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Cheryl Kakazu Park to replace Cathy Takase as OIP director.
The transition received a lot of attention: Takase said she had been fired after telling Abercrombie in an advisory opinion that he was breaking the law by refusing to disclose the list of judicial nominees for a Hawaii Supreme Court vacancy.
Civil Beat was among several news outlets that had requested the list.
Kakazu Park has said that the OIP will not issue another advisory opinion under her administration, citing that it would be “futile.”
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser eventually sued the governor’s office in court on this issue and won. Around the same time, the Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission decided that moving forward, it would change its policy and release the names of all nominees it gives to the governor. Following the commission’s decision, Abercrombie grudgingly released the list of judicial nominees.
A 2017 report by the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest found that the state Office of Information Practices favors government agencies in disputes and takes too long to resolve complaints over access to public records and meetings.
The law center’s executive director, Brian Black, examined OIP administrations over the last 10 years and found the average time to decision for major matters has almost quintupled.
He also found the number of matters decided per year had dropped to its lowest level since the creation of the office in 1988, leading to an increase in its backlog of pending matters, according to the center’s 13-page report, “Breaking Down Hawaii’s Broken System for Resolving Public Access Disputes.” The OIP denied the evidence presented and said it was biased and inaccurate.
Specifically, the OIP enforces Hawaii’s open records and open meetings laws:
- The open records law, under The Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), enables public access to the records of all state and county government agencies in accordance with certain guidelines, according to the OIP’s web site.
- The open meetings law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law, regulates how all state and county boards conduct official business. Essentially, the law holds that boards cannot discuss business matters in secret — boards are required to give public notice of meetings, maintain public access to those meetings, provide opportunities for public testimony and keep minutes of all meetings. The OIP offers guidance on the Sunshine Law and addresses complaints with respect to the law. The Hawaii Legislature is exempted from the Sunshine Law.
Click here to see a guide to Hawaii’s open government laws.
A court ruling rendered OIP opinion advisory rather than binding. Now, the OIP remains “underfunded and largely ignored by other government agencies,” Civil Beat reported earlier this year.
State law requires that the director be appointed by the governor. But the office is also staffed by attorneys, all of whom report to the director.
No. 1 Capitol District Building
250 South Hotel Street, Suite 107
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Phone: (808) 586-1400
Fax: (808) 586-1412