DOH DIRECTOR’S OFFICE SHAKEN UP BY CITIZEN’S HUNCH THAT OBAMA HAS ALTERED HIS ORIGINAL VITAL RECORDS
by John Charlton
(Sept. 30, 2009) — Recent public revelations by Attorney Leo Donofrio, that the office of Dr. Chiyome L. Fukino, the Director of the Department of Health for the State of Hawaii, has a policy of obstructing and misdirecting citizens’ requests for information, in violation of Hawaiian Statutes, seem to have led to confusion and rout in the office of the director.
Attorney Donofrio has detailed the requests of TerryK in July, and her subsequent requests in September (part 1 & 2). The Post & Email has also reported the request made last week by another citizen for index data & redacted records, which was also analyzed by Attorney Donofrio.
An analysis of the responses received from Janice S. Okubo, Communications Director at the Department of Health, indicates there is panic in the director’s office.
First, there are notable inconsistencies of response, ranging from misdirecting citizens who make requests, to outright denials that the laws allow what they allow; to interpretations of departmental policies as being more binding that Hawaii Statutes.
Second, when the second citizen fired back a letter of complaint, in response to the denial by Janice Okubo, it appears that two of the officials in the Director’s Office who received it — Katherine P. Kealoha and Noemi Pendleton — conveniently fled the office, setting their email programs to “auto reply”, with messages that they would be out of the office for some days. Unwittingly, however, these auto-responders have confirmed that the correspondence was received by Janice Okubo; who as of this report, has continued to refuse to reply to the citizen’s legitimate request.
Moreover in the rejection received by this citizen, to the request made, Okubo sent a completed “Notice to Requester” Form, in PDF format, which bears the form identification note “OIP 4 (rev. 8/29/08)”. In this form, amazingly, the reason for the denial given is as follows:
Cannot be granted because
___ Agency does not maintain the records. Agency believed to maintain records:
___ Agency needs a further description or clarification of the records requested. Please contact the agency
and provide the following information:
_X_ Request requires agency to create a summary or compilation from records not readily retrievable.
The reason given on the PDF form received by the citizen seems discordant with the email which contained it; this gives rise to further speculation that someone in the office staff is not willing to support Okubo’s text of denial with the same assertion. Okubo’s denial read in part:
State law prohibits the Department of Health from disclosing any information about a Hawaii vital record unless the requestor has a direct and tangible interest in the record. This includes verification of vital records and all the information contained in a record. Direct and tangible interest is determined by HRS §338-18(b) which can be found at: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol06_Ch0321-0344/HRS0338/HRS_0338-0018.htm
Considering that the request regarded the index data for the vital records mentioned in the July 28th press release, and the redacted vital records cited in that release (which release waived privacy rights to all readily released information: such as name, place of birth, sex, citizenship of parents), such a categorization of the reason for the denial, on the PDF form, appears to have no veracity, for the following reasons:
1) The vital record index information is readily available in the modern electronic system installed several years ago under Dr. Fukino’s supervision.
2) The vital records themselves must be readily available, since Dr. Fukino has herself publically admitted to viewing them.
3) A redacted copy can quickly be released by her department, which contains no less that 3 printers for this purpose, according to another citizen who has requested a copy of their own vital record in the last 12 months, and confirmed this fact by phone, with an employee in the respective office.
Third, The Post & Email itself has made an information request to the Director’s office, and contrary to apparently normal procedures, no reply at all has been issued after 3 days. The nature of this information request will be disclosed when the 10 day statutory waiting period has expired, or beforehand if a response is received. If Dr. Fukino’s office does not respond by then, the revelations of what kind of information she would be refusing to disclose will shatter any credibility of impartiality on her part.
Finally, Attorney Donofrio has announced that he is preparing legal action on behalf of TerryK against Dr. Fukino and the Department of Health, using the full extent of Hawaii Law which protects, quite forcefully, the rights of the general public to information regarding certain kinds of requests; which requests have already been made or are about to be made.
The Post & Email calls on Governor Lingle and Dr. Fukino to put an end to any sort of undue reticence in this matter, and see to it that the staff of the Department of Health in Hawaii fully comply with Hawaiian Law, the UIPA guidelines, and professional ethics, for the good and tranquility of the Nation.