Tuesday, September 22, 2009


FIRST BITE: “Only you” as our editor often says “could spend a ‘rousingly entertaining’ morning poring over documents” as we did today, in this case some from the Office of Information Practices (OIP) web site.

But a phone call last night from a similarly inclined individual hipped us to a new section in which those new “informal opinions” have finally been posted.

For those who might have missed the reason why the OIP has only had two formal opinions in 2008 and two so far in 2009, the OIP’s Annual Report - 2008 says

One of OIP’s priorities this past year has been to decrease its longstanding backlog of pending requests for written advisory opinions. OIP elected to address more cases by way of informal (unpublished) opinions, and by written and verbal correspondence as opposed to formal published opinions. OIP has been successful in increasing the number of case dispositions despite having to devote significant staff effort to pending appellate litigation in the past fiscal year.

Anyone who is looking for those informal opinions can now find them on-line.

And one particular one may have a major effect on how the Kaua`i Board of Ethics (BOE) conducts its business.

As we’ve reported before the BOE has been quite stingy with the public disclosure forms that all major county personnel and board and commission members are required to complete. Their policy has been to keep them from the public if not permanently at least until they have a chance to go over them and actually purge them of anything that might be construed to be a violation of the “code of ethics”- something many considered to be a corrupt practice since the disclosures are supposed to publicly reveal any ”problems” with the private interests of the filer as they intersect with the person’s duties on behalf of the county.

Still to this day, although the local newspaper’s Michael Levine has successfully gotten them to release recently submitted disclosure forms he’s only gotten as they are reviewed by the BOE.

In UIPA Memo 09-6 regarding “Candidate's Financial Disclosure Statements”:

An attorney asked whether a financial disclosure statement filed with the Maui County Board of Ethics (“Board”) by a candidate for Maui County elective office (“candidate financial disclosure statement”) is open to public inspection under part II of the UIPA before the Board has met to discuss it.

OIP concluded that a candidate financial disclosure statement is open to public inspection at the time it is filed. The statement is maintained by the Board from the time it is filed, and a candidate for Maui County elective office does not have a significant privacy interest in the information contained therein. Thus, the Board has no basis to deny public access to the candidate financial disclosure statement.

This would seem to settle the matter of whether the BOE has any jurisdiction whatsoever over the actual content of the forms other than advisory and indicates that the public has a right to the fully unredacted version of the disclosure form as originally filed by the individual.

No comments: