Friday, August 28, 2020
Hawaii state government departments spurn auditor by refusing to cooperate on COVID-19 investigations
by Larry Geller
It’s déjà vu all over again in Hawaii state government.
In 1993 attorneys filed a lawsuit against Hawaii’s Department of Education and Department of Health for an almost complete failure to provide special education services to special needs students in Hawaii.
The resulting consent decree dragged on for a dozen years and didn’t end before Judge David Ezra found both departments to be in contempt of court.
Once again, both the DOE and DOH are refusing to cooperate in the public interest. This time, both state agencies have refused to provide information requested by the state auditor.
“As we note throughout our report, we received no cooperation from DOE. The department did not provide any of the documents we requested, limiting our review to policies and procedures that are publicly available on DOE’s website and elsewhere online. We had hoped to interview DOE to clarify how these plans have been implemented and followed, among other things. However, notwithstanding repeated requests, DOE declined to schedule meetings with us before the issuance of this report. As many of our questions echo those being asked by the public and public officials, it is unreasonable for DOE to refuse our requests about their safety and health guidelines. This is especially critical since teachers and some students have already returned to campus.”
The report on DOH was posted two days ago and includes this:
“Now, more than ever, DOH must be transparent and accountable. The lack of cooperation we received is, frankly, inexcusable. Public confidence in the department, specifically in its ability to perform timely contact tracing of the growing number of positive cases, has been eroded. The community now has many questions about the process that DOH has, for months, represented as under control. For DOH to effectively protect public health and reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus so we can begin re-starting our economy, it is critical the department rebuild public trust. This health emergency demands DOH ensure that its response is transparent by providing the public with complete, timely, and accurate information.”
Both reports are comprehensive and straightforward, worded in plain language.
Concerned Hawaii citizens and legislators should review these and consider why our state agencies are not cooperating in the public interest in this time of pandemic crisis.