Wednesday, July 29, 2009



(PNN) -- All original electronic versions of the minutes of meetings of the Kaua`i County Council prior to May 20, 2008 have apparently been lost according to a July 6 response by County Clerk Peter Nakamura to a May 20 records request from Councilpersons Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara.

Nakamura said he had “difficulty locating electronic copies of council (and committee) meeting minutes prior to 2008 at this time” in a late response to the request for the original electronically created documents.

Though Nakamura blamed “changes in council services personnel assigned to council meetings prior to 2008 and physical workstations replacement and upgrades” he did not say what happened to the meeting minutes from 2008 until May 20 although they are also apparently lost.

The response from Nakamura violated the State Uniform information Practices Act (UIPA) HRS 92F provisions requiring a response to record requests within 10 days, a common complaint of community members, as noted in a response from Bynum and Kawahara to the news that only paper copies of the crucial public documents exist.

After receiving no answer within 10 days of the May 20 request the two also filed a follow-up request on June 10 noting the missed deadline.

That was also ignored until a month and a half after the original request by Nakamura who said he is still looking for the original electronic versions but was making non-searchable, non-text versions scanned from the paper records available in a PDF format.

A July 20 response to Nakamura’s memo informing them of the lost records shows Bynum and Kawahara were, first of all, less than pleased at Nakamura’s response time.

They wrote:

We are in receipt of your memo dated July 6, 2009 (received July 8, 2009) in response to our request for access to public documents submitted on May 26, 2009 pursuant to the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA). Although we appreciate that you have begun and are in partial compliance with the legal requirements of the UIPA, your memo raises a number of very significant concerns.

As you are aware, the UIPA disclosure provision requires: “Within ten business days of receipt of a request, the agency must respond to the requester. Depending upon the circumstances, the agency must: A. Make the record available; OR B. Provide a “Notice to Requester” or an “Acknowledgment to Requester”. Your response was received on July 8th, a full 31 business days after the initial request.

We have also heard from constituents that other requests for information pursuant to the UIPA are not being responded to in the time frame required by law or not at all. We are aware of a request made in June that is apparently being ignored. We are not making a judgment about the appropriateness of any request but we are requesting that you have the courtesy to acknowledge our community members’ requests as required by law.

But if the violation of a UIPA mandated deadline- the same kind PNN has experienced many times under Nakamura- was offensive to the two, the loss of these primary documents was a fully unacceptable dereliction of one of his primary responsibilities under the county charter: maintaining the council’s records.

And, they said, the records should be able to be recovered if Nakamura really wanted to produce them.

The memo continues:

We are also troubled by your statement that you have “have had difficulty locating electronic copies of Council meeting minutes” and other documents. This revelation has significant implications. Is it the case then that our key public documents exist only on paper in the Historic County building? Is it the case that our office documents are not backed up on the county network? Is it the case that we are not availing ourselves of the backup capabilities provided by the County IT department. Does this not leave an unacceptable risk that these key public documents could be lost completely?

As a result of the apparent lost files you have supplied us with documents scanned from hard paper copies which result in very large files (up to 130MB) that contain scanning errors and are difficult for persons with disabilities to appropriately access. Your statement that compliance is incremental and delayed by “voluminous nature of the request” only makes any sense if all of these documents are indeed lost. We have asked that these documents be made routinely available to all council members on the County intranet network which is secure and backed up offsite. Please make every effort to find the lost documents and release them to the public and to us in the appropriate electronic format. This process should consume less than an hour and not constitute an “unreasonable interference with (your) other duties and functions.”

Sincerely, LANI KAWAHARA, Councilmember; TIM BYNUM Councilmember

The missing records were mentioned briefly during the marathon July 22 council meeting during discussion of many matters related to council rules and policies but that mere mention elicited a warning from County Attorney Al Castillo to stop talking about it in public.

This might explain an item listed on the meeting agenda that called for an Executive Session (ES-392) “to consider the evaluation of officers and/or employees where consideration of matters affecting privacy will be involved and associated matters”.

In the “confusion” of the meeting, the ES was never held or even “announced” by Nakamura who serves as parliamentarian and agenda manager for Chair Kaipo Asing at all council meetings.

In response to some of the discussions at the meeting and promises by Asing that things would change “on Monday” (as detailed here in the four posts prior to this one) one small change was instituted Monday, July 27.

According to a memo from Asing to all council members, from now on “copies of incoming council documents will be placed in a binder that will be on the council’s ‘break room” table”.

Although they are not in the electronic form in which they were presumably created and the fact that “(d)ocuments over 30 days old will be removed from the binder” in the past delivery of these documents addressed to all councilmembers were usually delayed and sometimes never delivered at all.

The following day July 28 another new policy was announced, this one by Nakamura, saying that for the first time draft minutes- those for the July 22 pubic hearing on bill 2319- are now available electronically to council members for review prior to their approval at the Aug 8 meeting. This is a first since previously, as with all other documents, copies of the minutes- whether draft or approved- were only available in paper format.

The lack of electronic records is a long standing problem for councilmembers, which is apparent when one visits any councilperson’s office and has to find a place to sit amongst the stacks of paper.

Unlike every county in the state and almost all jurisdictions of equal size population nationwide, councilmembers on Kaua`i have no personal staff for simple duties like filing documents and sorting correspondence, much less for drafting legislation.

All staff time is delegated by Nakamura at Asing’s instructions.

Bynum and Kawahara were apparently pleased nonetheless by the half-measures, posting notes at their kauaiinfo web site, one linking to the two memos and another saying:

Following the landmark Council meeting held July 22, 2009 in which Council Chair Kaipo Asing stated “I am willing as chair to work with you to solve the problems" changes asked for over two years ago are indeed starting to happen. (see below). We are very pleased at this turn of events and appreciate Mr. Asing's decision to allow the changes.


Note: We’ll be taking a long weekend. See ya Monday.

1 comment:

Jim Manico said...

The fact that the county of Kauai cannot be responsible for the most basic computer backup and file management is a sign of a much greater incompetency.

Who is running Kauai's computer operation? This is shameful incompetence on a fairly core level...