- Law Cases
by John Charlton
(Feb. 18, 2010) — The credibility of Janice S. Okubo, Communications Director of the Hawaii Department of Health, is in question this morning, as The Post & Email discloses documents showing that she gave patently false information in response to a freedom of information request made in accord with Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act.
That Act states in Section §92F-2, “Purposes:; rules of construction:”
In a democracy, the people are vested with the ultimate decision-making power. Government agencies exist to aid the people in the formation and conduct of public policy. Opening up the government processes to public scrutiny and participation is the only viable and reasonable method of protecting the public’s interest. Therefore the legislature declares that it is the policy of this State that the formation and conduct of public policy—the discussions, deliberations, decisions, and action of government agencies—shall be conducted as openly as possible.
According to this Hawaiian Law, Janice Okubo is legally bound to give truthful and accurate responses:
This chapter shall be applied and construed to promote its underlying purposes and policies, which are to:
(1) Promote the public interest in disclosure;
(2) Provide for accurate, relevant, timely, and complete government records;
(3) Enhance governmental accountability through a general policy of access to government records;
(4) Make government accountable to individuals in the collection, use, and dissemination of information relating to them; and
(5) Balance the individual privacy interest and the public access interest, allowing access unless it would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. [L 1988, c 262, pt of §1]
Indeed, Miss Okubo recently went on record when she stated publicly to the readers of The Post & Email last week:
The Department of Health is entrusted by the people of Hawai‘i to protect the vital records it maintains. The Department operates within the confines of the laws that govern state and federal agencies and will continue to do so. No amount of bullying or spreading rumors and false innuendos will persuade the department or its officials to break the trust of the people, operate outside of the law, or misuse the information it is entrusted to protect.
The confidence this statement generated has now been shattered, as The Post & Email has discovered that Janice Okubo provided a false response to a UIPA request I made to Okubo; a false response that is seemingly impossible for her to have made without someone in her department providing knowingly false information in its preparation.
Okubo’s erroneous response regarded the UIPA request made to her, in her official capacity as Director of Communications, on January 22, 2010. After several attempts to avoid answering the request by highlighting aspects or non-essential parts which provided a seeming reason to deny answering it (including one response where she denied my UIPA request on the grounds that I had written a paragraph of the request, which I never wrote in it), I wrote her emphatically, demanding the information I sought in accord with the UIPA act, on Thursday, February 11, 2010:
Dear Miss Okubo,
This letter clarifies my previous UIPA request, which is quoted in full below my signature, along with your response.
According to the Records Disposition Authorization for the Department of Health in 1980, The Schedule of Records Retention, on p. 60 of said document, lists the DoH Research and Statistics Office as retaining:
“VDR-6 Certificates of Hawaiian Birth Index: Retention Permanent: May Microfilm security copy. May microfilm search copy. May transfer a microfilm search copy to State Archives after events therein are over 75 years old.”
Please note that this Index is distinct from the Birth Index, since this index is for those eligible for Certificates of Hawaiian Birth.
Hence per the Retention Schedule, which lists the Hawaiian Birth index data as a record maintained by your department, I am seeking confirmation that such index data does exist per the Retention Schedules. And secondly, that any individuals with the following surnames appear(ed) in the said Hawaiian Birth Index.
If such names do(did) occur on that index, then I am seeking the Index data for each.
In reply to this request, Okubo finally responded in her letter to me, nine hours later, the same day:
Aloha Mr. Charlton,
In accordance with the document retention schedule, birth index data is maintained by the Department of Health. In regards to the second part of your request, there are no records responsive to your request.
Hawaii State Department of Health
Her denial that such records exist is the official manner of responding when such individuals do not appear in a Birth index. My UIPA request specifically cited the Hawaiian Birth Index rather than the general Birth Index, because I sought index data for births prior to Hawaii’s Statehood. I was attempting to find corroborating evidence why Obama’s FaceBook page might claim that he was born in 1958/9.
Admittedly my UIPA request was only one of minor import, and curious at that. However, in every request such as this, Janice Okubo is bound by the law to give a truthful request. And being a man of good nature, I presumed she had answered correctly.
After communicating this to a friend, I was given a copy of a document which appears to prove that her response to me was false.
The document is an official Treasury Department: Customs Service List of In-Bound Passengers on the U.S.S. General J.C. Breckinridge, bound from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco, arriving April 14, 1949. An image of the document can be downloaded through this link.
The document lists names, ages and places of birth of passengers, and in doing so lists several individuals born in Hawaii before 1960, with the surname “Dunham.”
The information was found through an entry at Ancestry.com regarding a certain Roger O. Dunham:
California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957
Name: Roger O Dunham
Arrival Date: 14 Apr 1949
Age: 9 months
Birth Date: abt 1948
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Ship Name: General J C Breckinridge
Port of Arrival: San Francisco, California
Port of Departure: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Archive information (series:roll number): M1410:404
Armed with that information, another citizen-researcher obtained the above mentioned Ship Passenger List. I have been subsequently informed that the Dunham family, one not apparently related to Stanley Ann Dunham, numbers more than several dozen individuals in Hawaii, and that any search of the Hawaii Birth index should result in numerous individuals. Indeed, a WhitePages search shows 60 households with this surname, in the State, as of 2010. This seems to signify that Okubo or a staff member knowingly lied when they crafted a statement denying any such record of the birth of anyone with the Dunham name exists.
Dismayed that Okubo might have intentionally misrepresented the facts, I wrote her this stern letter to her on Friday, Feb. 12, 2010, using the names’ spelling, as transcribed in Ancestry.com’s database:
Dear Miss Okubo,
You recently intervened and gave me a response to my UIPA request of Jan 22, 2010, which sought all the index data for individuals listed as born, which appear in the Hawaiian Birth Index, who bore the surnames
And in your response to me you said no such individuals appear in that index.
However, researching Ancestry.com, I found theses individuals
Roger O. Dunham, Jr., born Aug. 1948, in Honolulu.
Frances C. Dunham Age 24; Married; Born in Keanae, Maui, Terr.of HI; in 1925
Erleen A. Dunham Age 8 mos; Born in Honolulu, in Sept 1948,
I ask you therefore to respond to my UIPA request by double-checking if these individual appears in the Hawaiian Birth Index, because in that case, someone lied; either your research/staff person lied to you and you passed that lie on to me when you said there are no such individuals on that index, or you lied directly to me. I understand that you cannot disclose birth dates or confirm them, so simply look for the names. I have cited birth dates to demonstrate simply that these individuals should be in the Hawaii Birth Index.
For that reason I ask that you release for me photocopies of the Hawaii Birth Index, as microfilmed, for that section of the Index which do/would bear these names, and I will pay to have them found and mailed to my address below.
Before I go public with this, I want to give you and your department every opportunity to correct the error and explain how it happened, because in this circumstance your erroneous response to me has undone any credibility the public might put in you as giving truthful responses to any UIPA request.
I hope you understand the gravity of the situation.
If a staff person lied to you, I would respectfully request their resignation, as this lie has damaged the reputation of your own Department regarding its intention to observe UIPA, which is a HI law. And since in your recent statement to The Post & Email you publicly assured our readers that observance of HI Law is a top priority of your department and the very basis of your ethical standards, this erroneous response to me needs to be investigated and publicly explained.
If any disciplinary action is taken, I would also ask for a public confirmation or statement as what action has been taken to reassure the public that you take such malfeasance seriously.
If I do not hear from you by Wednesday, I will bring this matter to the attention of Gov. Lingle.
Mr. John Charlton
The deadline I sent for a response from Miss Janice Okubo to my letter has passed, I feel that my duty as a journalist to defend the public interest now requires me to go public with this information and to ask my readers to contact the Governor of the State of Hawaii demanding an investigation. I had not demanded that Okubo begin or complete an investigation by this time, merely that she acknowledge my letter as a courtesy of good will. And without such a response, the expectation of her good will is now seriously damaged.
I believe that an independent, out-of-house investigation is necessary because if Okubo did lie on this one occasion, for whatever reason, that puts in doubt her truthfulness and that of the entire Hawaii Department of Health in regard to other UIPA requests or claims regarding Obama’s original vital records.
And since the claim of Obama to be born in Hawaii is now a declared political litmus test of the Democratic Party and major media outlets, it behooves the Governor of Hawaii to act immediately and decisively.
While Okubo has not contacted me, the Honolulu Advertiser has, the very day I asked Okubo to respond to my letter demanding an internal investigation. I believe it would also be necessary to demand resignations, because if one Hawaii government official can lie to the press, that will open the floodgates of official misrepresentation to the public, especially since such a false answer contradicts the letter and spirit of the UIPA act, even if it was not intentional.
For your part, you can contact the Governor and Lt. Governor of Hawaii, demanding an investigation, at the address and phone numbers below:
The Honorable Linda Lingle
Governor, State of Hawai`i
Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813
JAMES R.”DUKE” AIONA, JR.
Lieutenant Governor, State of Hawai`i
Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813
Fax: (808) 586-0231
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