Below is a set of questions posed to acting Kaua‘i County attorney Rosa Flores. A copy of the form a member of the public uses to request a document under the Freedom of Information Act is included. The official county form must be used to request documents.
• Where should a Kaua‘i resident go for a general records request? What process is involved? Is there a cost?
Any member of the public may submit a request for records. It can be in the form of a letter, sent via regular mail, email, or fax, and should state that it is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The request should also clearly state, preferably in an organized manner, the document(s) being requested. A suggested form can be downloaded from the Office of Information Practice’s website at www.hawaii.gov/oip/uipa.html. This form once downloaded can be filled in with the necessary information. There are charges set by statute to cover the agency’s costs of searching for and reviewing the requested documents for release.
The requestor must pay for postage if they decide not to pick up the documents, and there are also minimal copying charges set by the Kaua‘i County Charter for the number of pages that are released.
• How much time is allotted for the County to respond to such requests?
An agency has ten business days from the day it receives a request to send out a response.
• What is the definition of an executive session, and what is the reasoning behind it? How is the sunshine law interpreted in regard to executive sessions?
Chapter 92 of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes is known as the Sunshine Law, and public agency meetings and records fall under its purview. The Sunshine Law states that every meeting of all boards shall be open to the public and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting unless there are exceptions, in which case the meeting shall be held in what is called executive session and it is closed to the public.
The following are the exceptions under which an executive session may be held:
(1) To consider and evaluate personal information relating to individuals applying for professional or vocational licenses cited in section 26-9 or both;
(2) To consider the hire, evaluation, dismissal, or discipline of an officer or employee or of charges brought against the officer or employee, where consideration of matters affecting privacy will be involved; provided that if the individual concerned requests an open meeting, an open meeting shall be held;
(3) To deliberate concerning the authority of persons designated by the board to conduct labor negotiations or to negotiate the acquisition of public property, or during the conduct of such negotiations;
(4) To consult with the board’s attorney on questions and issues pertaining to the board’s powers, duties, privileges, immunities, and liabilities;
(5) To investigate proceedings regarding criminal misconduct;
(6) To consider sensitive matters related to public safety or security;
(7) To consider matters relating to the solicitation and acceptance of private donations; and
(8) To deliberate or make a decision upon a matter that requires the consideration of information that must be kept confidential pursuant to a state or federal law, or a court order.
• Executive sessions during Police Commission meetings are sometimes listed on the agenda citing a discussion relating to an investigation into a complaint against an officer. Do those minutes ever become public? Is there a published account of an investigation ever available? How does that work, and what is the reason behind keeping it under wraps?
Such an agenda item falls under exception No. 2 explained above.
• How would a resident find out the salaries of county employees?
Section 3-2.1 of the Kaua‘i County Code contains the salaries of certain county employees, namely elected officials, department heads, and appointed deputies. The Personnel Department of the County should have the information for all other positions.
• What recourse is available if a resident submits a records request and is denied one?
A person whose request is denied can always write to the Office of Information Practices and explain why they feel their request should have been granted. The OIP will then decide what their proper course of action would be.