Opinion Letter No. 00-02
May 23, 2000
DHS Fair Hearing Decisions
A requester asked (1) whether fair hearing decisions
issued by the Department of Human Services ("DHS") as
to whether a claimant is eligible for general assistance benefits
("Decisions") must be made available for public inspection
and copying, and (2) whether DHS may charge for redacting information
(1) OIP found that Decisions from which individually
identifying information has been removed may be disclosed. Section
346-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is designed to protect the confidentiality
of records concerning individuals who apply for and receive public
services and assistance. Section 92F-12(a)(2), Hawaii Revised Statutes,
is designed to protect the public interest in open government by
ensuring that agencies do not maintain secret law upon which their
decisions are based. These two policies are not mutually exclusive.
Removal of individually identifying information will allow for the
disclosure of the law of the agency as required by section 92F-12(a)(2),
Hawaii Revised Statutes, without infringing upon the privacy of
the individuals about whom the decision is rendered. Thus, disclosure
of the Decisions from which individually identifying information
has been removed will give effect to both
sections 92F-12(a)(2) and 346-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes.
(2) OIP found that DHS may not charge for redacting
information from Decisions. The law of the agency must be available
to the public under section 92F-12(a)(2), Hawaii Revised Statutes.
The identifying information contained in the Decisions is not necessarily
a part of that law. The information identifying claimants need not
have been included in the Decisions. Although DHS has been aware
of both section 92F-12(a)(2), Hawaii Revised Statutes, and section
346-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes, it nevertheless has continued to
incorporate the individually identifiable data into a public record.
The requester should not bear the cost of the DHS' decision to incorporate
this confidential information into a public record. Therefore, the
DHS should be responsible for the costs of redaction.