We thought we asked a simple question: what public records requests have come in to state agencies over the past year and how have the agencies responded.

But it turns out the answer is anything but simple.

State officials freaked out. Some told us they’d been instructed to run the question through the governor’s office. Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s own press secretary wrung her hands and complained about the “magnitude” of the task.

But it turns out the state has long had a requirement that agencies provide a written report — every year — of records requests to the Office of Information Practices. It’s just that virtually no one has been doing it.

Worse, the agencies don’t have a consistent way of responding to the public. Some simply don’t respond. Some are really helpful and look up the information without a fuss. Some charge an arm and a leg to even try to figure it out, like the Department of Human Services which told us it would take $123,000 and 16 months of working around the clock to answer what we thought was a simple question.

But here’s a simple solution: Abercrombie’s the boss, right? It shouldn’t be up to OIP to get the governor’s people on the same page. Perhaps he could send a memo around telling them to follow the rules.