BY JIM DOOLEY – The state Office of Information Practices will review the University of Hawaii’s refusal to
release a full copy of head football coach Norm Chow’s employment contract.
“We are opening a file on the matter,” OIP attorney Carlotta Amerino said today.
Amerino made the comment when Hawaii Reporter contacted OIP for assistance in determining if Chow’s full contract is a public record.
The university released the document Monday, but blacked out Chow’s salary, saying release of the specific figure would violate Chow’s privacy rights.
Instead, the university said the coach’s annual compensation falls somewhere between $392,142 and $935,544.
The university disclosed the salaries of the previous two head football coaches, Greg McMackin and June Jones.
UH officials balked in 2002 at releasing Jones’ salary, saying the disclosure would violate his personal privacy rights.
OIP issued an opinionin 2003 that said the full Jones contract was a public document. opinion 03-16
“We believe that the public interest in disclosure of the contract outweighs Coach Jones’ privacy interest,” the opinion said.
“Whether or not by choice, Coach Jones is one of the most prominent people in the State. He is also one of the
highest paid State employees. Numerous
media reports have indicated that, upon the signing of his new contract,
Coach Jones will become the highest paid State employee. Given these facts, the public clearly has an interest – one which we find to be quite significant – in knowing the terms of Coach Jones’ contract,” the opinion said.
The University cited that opinion this week as one reason it was withholding the precise amount of Chow’s salary.
UH Professor Gerald Kato, an advocate for government transparency, said “it is sort of Orwellian” for the university “to cite an opinion requiring the release of salary information as the basis for not releasing salary information.”
Kato continued: “The university is privatizing public functions under the guise of privacy.”
In an email Tuesday to UH Athletics Media Relations Director Derek Inouchi, Hawaii Reporter protested UH’s decision to withhold Chow’s salary and cited the 2003 OIP opinion as precedent for full disclosure.
Inouchi responded the following day by saying, “I will forward your request to the appropriate parties.”