Thursday, March 08, 2007


OIP to Board of Education: What part of "you can't charge $880 for an audio tape don't you understand?"

I thought this was over, but the Office of Information Practices kindly wrote one more letter to the Board of Education about their extortionary exhorbitant excessive (and as it turns out, illegal) charge of $880 for a redacted audio tape of the secret meeting when they fired popular charter school executive Jim Shon.

If for some reason you still care about this at all, you might recall that just a few days ago I wrote that even though OIP informed BOE chairperson Karen Knudsen that "Chapter 2-71, Hawaii Administrative Rules, does not allow an agency to charge a requester the cost to reproduce the requested record for the agency's purpose of redacting the record", she basically wrote back that she plans to charge the $880 anyway.

(Any kids reading this? What a great example this BOE is setting for you--ignore the law whenever you want, it's ok. Imagine if kids followed Knudsen's example in school.)

Today's OIP letter reiterates their previous instruction and sets a deadline of March 15 to release the information.

One thing I would like to point out--of all the State agencies I have dealt with over the years, OIP has worked hardest on my behalf. They take the open meetings and open records law seriously, and from this exchange you can see that they go the extra mile for the average citizen.

If the Department of Transportation worked this hard, we'd have fewer pedestrian deaths. You see what I mean. Here is one part of our government that is really there for us. I want to express my thanks for all of the effort that OIP has put into this, while at the same time contrasting that with the BOE's behavior starting with the firing of Jim Shon in an illegal secret meeting right through to their current coverup of their action.

The information is so old at this time (it should have been released before the November elections) that this fight is not worth pursuing. In fact, demonstrating the BOE's and Knudsen's disdain for the law has been worth far more than whatever is on that audio tape.

Although voters wanted the information on who voted to fire Jim Shon before the November election and didn't get it, maybe this coverup will still be remembered by the next one.

So I've made a note in my calendar to blog a reminder before the next election.


Congratulations, Larry. You're an inspiration.

From the 3/17 Star-B

Open-government office has no power
By Mark Niesse
Associated Press
When the office that oversees the state open-meetings law told the Kauai County Council to reveal what it talked about behind closed doors in a January 2005 meeting, the Council refused.

Now the case is stuck in court because the Office of Information Practices, which interprets the openness laws, does not have any enforcement power.

Government bodies throughout the state -- from neighborhood boards to city committees -- conduct business in private at times and fail to notify the public about what they are doing, according to records compiled by the Office of Information Practices.

Usually these government agencies comply with opinions requiring more openness, but when they do not, the only recourse is for a member of the public to go to court.

This is Sunshine Week, a nationwide effort to draw attention to the public's right to know the activities of their government.

"There are those handful of times when a board or agency has decided to thumb their nose at what the Office of Information Practices has decided," said OIP Director Les Kondo. "Agencies should be required to comply with our decisions."

In the Kauai County Council case, Kondo's office issued an opinion that the Council should give the public access to executive session minutes after it had discussed whether to conduct an investigation of the Kauai Police Department.

The Council protested and the court case is pending.

Out of 40 investigations conducted by the Office of Information Practices from 2004 to 2006, the open-meetings law was not complied with at least 13 times, according to an analysis of state records.

Many of these violations occurred when a government body decided to meet in a closed executive session without good reason. Another common problem is when neighborhood boards neglect to specifically list what they will discuss at their upcoming meetings.

"There have been situations where the Office of Information Practices gives out an opinion or ruling and there's really no way to enforce it," said Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kahala-Palolo). "It just doesn't seem to have been a priority in the state to back up the public's right to know with enforcement."

Sometimes, a board will not openly disobey an Office of Information Practices ruling, but it will take its time before complying, Kondo said.

For example, the office instructed the Board of Education last fall to disclose minutes from its Sept. 7 executive session in which it fired Jim Shon, former head of the state Charter School Administrative Office. Those minutes still have not been released.

"It's a natural tendency to do your business in private, but with a government board, that's not how things are done," Kondo said. "Open government is a bedrock and foundation for our form of government."

Ihara said he has repeatedly introduced bills that would give the Office of Information Practices enforcement powers, but they have been shot down every time.

This year, several proposals are alive in the Legislature that would more clearly define openness rules for government boards.

The measures would allow boards to have meetings without a quorum, allow open-ended public comment periods on neighborhood board agendas and give neighborhood boards the right to vote on new agenda items if they affect health and safety.

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