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Hawaii State Judiciary
Local Leagues - Hilo (Lois Cecil)
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Local Leagues - Maui (Andrea Dean)
Local Leagues - Kauai (Carol White)
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Where Have All the Joiners Gone?
Local Leagues - Kauai
A Significant Victory!
As a result of questions raised by the Kaua'i League of Women Voters a year ago, the Office of Information Practices (OIP) has concluded that Ho'ike Community TV is "owned, operated or managed on behalf of this state" and thus, as a matter of public policy their records are subject to inspection.
The Kauai League wrote to the Office of Information Practices last Fall to request this and related opinions, after witnessing major bylaw changes at Ho'ike board meetings, an increase in the use of executive sessions, and police to exclude the public. The secrecy heightened public suspicion and prompted League action.
The OIP concluded (Op. No. 0208) that Ho'ike and Olelo, which manages the public access cable channels, are subject to the state's public records law. Despite being set up as a private, not-for-profit corporation for the purposes of the Uniform Information & Practices Act (UIPA), these non-profits are state agencies subject to Open Records Law (HRS-92F).
A dynamic democracy depends upon the public's ability to participate in and have oversight of all government functions, especially when they are spending state monies. The League is very pleased with the opinion and thanks OIP for their due diligence. The one-year wait for the opinion in no way detracts from our appreciation, because the research required was a significant task.
Olelo, the public access station on Oahu, receives over $3 million each year, and Ho'ike on Kaua'i receives about $275,000 each year, in addition to other government contracts. All public access stations in Hawai'i derive their funding from cable company franchise fees (three per cent of their profits), as mandated by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA).
The OIP has found that Ho'ike was created by the state to perform a government function, and can be ended by the state. The state also appoints the majority of the board and funds the organization with public monies. Therefore, for purposes of the Uniform Information and Practices Act, it is subject to HRS-92F, the open records law.
The Kaua'i League board met September 12 to discuss this timely issue, and expressed the hope that this opinion sends a message to organizations that seek to provide privatized government services: open up your records to the public for accountability and oversight.
The League is in the process of interacting with its membership statewide on the impact this opinion may have on other situations. This opinion could be used to explicitly block government agencies from designating public tasks to private agencies and then claiming they are exempt from state open records and Sunshine laws.
As the newly accessed information from these organizations comes under public scrutiny, and after receiving feedback from its membership, the League may join others in a call for a state audit of these access corporations around the state. (No state audit of any public access stations has been conducted since they were created by the DCCA over 10 years ago.)
The Kauai League had also included in their September 13, 2001 request, an opinion regarding whether Ho'ike, and potentially other public access organizations, are also subject to the Open Meetings Laws. That matter will be addressed separately by the OIP. It is understandably taking more time for OIP to research.