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The most recent study found despite OIP having more attorneys and staff per capita than any other state with a similar office, “OIP has the longest delays for public access disputes among its peer agencies with available information.” The study also found that only three of the 46 decisions issued by OIP between 2015 and 2017 were done so in less than two years. The study also found that similar offices in other states typically rendered decisions within three to six months, with some states able to do so in even less time. OIP quickly responded to CBLC’s latest report by stating most matters it handles don’t require a written opinion and in 2017 resolved most the same day through its Attorney of the Day service. It also stated, “CBLC’s motives are suspect,” and asked rhetorically, “Without OIP to provide (Attorney of the Day) service, would there be more clients for a ‘public interest’ law firm to choose from?” That’s basically a suggestion that a nonprofit law organization that takes cases strictly on a pro bono basis is seeking to poach clients from OIP, the press club said. Senate Bill 3092, which would give OIP a hard deadline of six months to render big decisions, was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 13, but no hearings have been scheduled since. Since its founding, the Big Island Press Club has protested any absence of transparency or accountability within the halls of state and county government in Hawaii. This Lava Tube award is especially unfortunate, as OIP is the state agency tasked with ensuring state and county government organizations in Hawaii abide by two state laws — the Uniform Information Practices Act, which is the state’s open-records law, and the Sunshine Law, which is the state’s open-meetings law. BIPC’s officers agree with the statement in CBLC’s most recent report: “Forcing the public to wait two years or more for resolution of public access disputes at OIP is unacceptable.” BIPC has selected the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest for its Torch of Light award for the research between 2015 and 2017 that revealed the time lag between complaints and the time it takes OIP to issue decisions on weighty public access issues. The CBLC, according to its website, is an independent, nonprofit organization which offers “free legal advice, and representation on a select basis, to members of the media and the public who need help with issues involving government transparency.” It seeks to forge “solutions that promote transparency in government to better serve the people of Hawaii” and, as in the case of OIP, “investigating questionable government activity, advocating for corrective action, and, if needed, enforcing corrective measures in the courts.” Funded by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar, Civil Beat Law Center is a different entity than the news website Honolulu Civil Beat. The Big Island Press Club, the state’s oldest press club, founded in 1967— has awarded the Lava Tube and the Torch of Light annually since 1997 on Freedom of Information Day, March 16. This day also marks the birthday of our nation’s fourth president, James Madison.
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2018/03/29/community/big-island-press-club-announces-annual-lava-tube-torch-of-light-awards/
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