Friday, March 21, 2008

HOW MUCH IS THAT DOCUMENT IN THW WINDOW: As part of a national Sunshine Law project former Honolulu Star-Bulletin investigative reporter and “premier” Hawai`i blogger Ian Lind has been working on a 50 state project to see how accessible state administration emails are.

He made a request for random but certain dates from the Lingle Administration for all the emails for those days and after they got done purging whatever they thought was protected from release they sent him a gobbledygook of incompatible files that needed ages-old software just to download.

Brave investigative reporter that he is, Ian has been installing software and deconstructing the pile of garbage they sent him. It’s yielded what seems to be not much yet although one commenter says they show how obsessed with legislative politics their people are.

But yesterday Lind delved into whether legislative offices need to give up their emails too.

He cites the Uniform Information Practices Act (HRS 92F) and finally after much exposition cites the end of 92F-13- 5 which says:
Inchoate and draft working papers of legislative committees including budget worksheets and unfiled committee reports; work product; records or transcripts of an investigating committee of the legislature which are closed by rules adopted pursuant to section 21-4 and the personal files of members of the legislature.

He concludes that:
(t)hat last clause, “and the personal files of members of the legislature”, clearly means that a legislator’s own email, along with other personal files, would not have to be disclosed... (s)o I expect to hear a collective sigh of relief when I arrive at the capitol later today.

What a minute- we beg to differ. Here’s what we had to say in Ian’s comments section

No Ian- that’s torturing the term “personal”. The measure makes sense only if something is not personal. Personal must mean “not official” (done in an official capacity) in this case- it doesn’t mean everything that goes on in the office or it wouldn’t be there- it would say everything. There has to be whatever isn’t “personal”

It has nothing to do with the draft vs. finished document provisions. As a matter of fact that opinion indicates that finished documents are to be released. Once an email is sent, it is a finished document unless all it’s doing is sending a draft of a document.

I don’t know that, as Ed (Coll)
claims above personal activity is not - or shouldn’t be for that matter- allowed in the offices. You’ve got to let people who work there call their husband or wife to pick up milk and that’s the kind of “personal” email or call logs that is excluded.

But if you think about it as everything going on in the office as either personal or official business the reading becomes clear-yes, all official actions of the legislature are public records…. why not ask them and see if they maintain some kind of exemption?

As Ed is fond of saying “Anyone got a problem with that?”

Calvin? Colleen? records?...

Update: Mel Rapozo has evaded our basic question as to his personal view of the ethics of his actions (and referred to a different provision of the Charter on the legal situation but not the one we or the Board of Ethics cited) but there is an interesting contention by Charley regarding the trumping through the “clearly contemplated doctrine” vs. a “two prong approach” which we posited at Mel’s Web site. We are still looking for an answer from Mel.

But he will look into the dogs-parks matter further. Cool.

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