Professor Wants Open Records Bill to Include U.H. Foundation

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”’Editor’s Note: University of Hawaii Professor Beverly Ann Deepe Keever, Ph.D, submitted the following testimony to the House Finance Committee on Feb. 26, 2004, supporting HB 2547, HD 1, and urged the Legislature to broaden it by mandating that the University of Hawaii Foundation records be covered by H.R.S. Chapter 92F.”’

“Beverly Keever Image”


I am a journalism professor who has been active in advocating open government in Hawaii for a number of years and am intimately familiar with the workings of the University of Hawaii.

I support H.R. 2547, H.D.l. But I urge that it be broadened. The purpose should be not only to facilitate the auditor’s access but also the public’s access to information from the University of Hawaii Foundation.

It seems clear that under state law disclosure of all government records are authorized to be released to the state Auditor, according to a recent Opinion Letter from the state Office of Information Practices (03-14).

The Legislature should make clear through language in this bill that the University of Hawaii Foundation’s records are government records under provisions of HR.S. 92F, the state’s Freedom of Information law. The Foundation is covered in the definition of “agency” in H.R.S.  92F-3 as a “corporation or other establishment owned, operated, or managed by or on behalf of this State or any county…”

Because the Foundation’s sole purpose is to act as a funding arm of the University of Hawaii, its records should be as open as are those in any other agency in Hawaii’s state or local governments.

Fortunately, in an earlier opinion letter (97-3), OIP has provided guidance about the confidentiality of University of Hawaii Foundation donors. OIP opined that private donor records of the University of Hawaii Foundation are permitted to be withheld from public disclosure because they may constitute “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” which is exempted under H.R.S. 92F.

However, corporate donors would be excluded from this exemption. In that opinion, OIP treated the University of Hawaii Foundation as a state agency without directly addressing whether or not it was.

Now the Legislature would save itself a great deal of trouble in the future by making clear that the University of Hawaii Foundation’s records are governed by H.R.S. Chapter 92F the same way as are other city and state agencies. This would greatly enhance the accountability of the Foundation and the public’s trust in it. In the future the Foundation’s records should be open not only to the Auditor but also to the public with certain exceptions, such as “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

In inquiring whether private donors wish to remain anonymous, the Auditor should be urged to explain that the state policy is to open up the governmental processes to public scrutiny and participation, as noted in H.R.S. Chapters 92 and 92F.

I recommend that the second paragraph of subsection (c) be amended as suggested in the following capital letters to read: Any DEPOSIT OR expenditure authorized pursuant to this subsection shall be for a public purpose AND FOR PUBLIC DISCLOSURE IN ACCORDANCE WITH H.R.S. CHAPTER 92F and shall not be …