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ACCUSES HAWAII HEALTH DEPARTMENT PERSONNEL OF PERFORMING INTERNET BACKGROUND CHECK AFTER INCRIMINATING EMAIL EXPOSED
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 10, 2010) — Kathleen Gotto, who last fall had requested information from the Hawaii Department of Health under the state’s UIPA law, has filed a formal complaint with the Office of Information Practices Ombudsman, accusing Department of Health employees of investigating her background on the internet and subsequently ignoring her request.
Her complaint was filed as a result of The Post & Email’s discovery of Hawaii Health Department/Vital Records personnel conspiring via email to ignore her requests based on their perceived notion of her political views after seeking personal information about her on the internet.
Ms. Gotto’s request did not involve the disclosure of vital records. Rather, her questions centered on how the State of Hawaii records out-of-state births. Her complaint, filed by email, reads:
Sent: Sun, 7 Mar 2010 15:05:16 -0700
Subject: Gotto Complaint (final)
Dear Mr. Matsunaga,
I initially contacted you a few months ago (see your acknowledgement below), but may have done so online as I do not seem to have a copy of it and your response did not include my initial email. However, I did follow your instruction on your website to try to resolve my difficulty in getting clear and unambiguous information releasable under UIPA laws from the Hawai’i Dept of Health and their Vital Records Dept.
Unfortunately, I have just discovered that Janice Okubo and Ken David apparently conspired to withhold information from me. To make matters even worse, Mr. David took it upon himself to “Google” my name and investigate me! I feel very violated over his actions. I am requesting that your office investigate this matter and provide me a report of your findings and recommendations. There needs to be consequences for this kind of conspiratorial behavior by state officials who are sworn to uphold the law; specifically, U.S. Code, Title 42, Chapter 21, Subchapter I of §1985. Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights. The rights deprived are those granted in the UIPA for disclosure of government records.
I am also requesting the information that has yet to be provided. Please see my attached email to Janice Okubo, et al. The attached email gives a good audit trail for this issue. However, I would like to correct the assertion that Ms. Joestling made in her January 2, 2010 response to me. She stated in her first paragraph, “…First let me clarify that a request under the UIPA is for records, not for information that needs to be compiled or collected.” However, IAW Hawai’i Revised Statues 92F-12, it states §92F-12 Disclosure required. (a) Any other provision in this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding, each agency shall make available for public inspection and duplication during regular business hours:
(1) Rules of procedure, substantive rules of general applicability, statements of general policy, and interpretations of general applicability adopted by the agency;
So I do not believe Ms. Joestling was correct in her statement above. I was requesting policy information on the two questions still not satisfactorily responded to (in the attached email and excerpted here below), not for information that needed to be compiled or collected.
These are the questions still requiring a clear, honest and unambiguous answer. As you can plainly see, Ms. Okubo is giving me a disingenuous answer in no. 3) and when I did as she requested in no. 4) and sent the question to the Vital Records Dept., Ken David investigated me online.
3) If there is only one index database, is there any indicator applied to the names therein that denote whether the party was born in Hawaii or out of Hawaii? The index includes index data from Hawaii vital records.
Also, (4) If amendments are made to a Hawaiian Cert of Birth and a late birth certificate is issued in lieu thereof, is it reasonable to assume it is called a Late Hawaiian Cert of Birth? I do not understand your question. Please send this request with clarification to firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to the two questions above, I would like to know where and how out-of-state births are recorded. According to Ms. Joestling, she believes that the Vital Records Dept only has in-state births. Therefore, that begs the question where and how out-of-state births are recorded.
To sum up, I am requesting that (1) your office would investigate the violation of my civil rights by Mr. David and Ms. Okubo and provide me a copy of your findings and recommendations; and (2) to afford me the courtesy of an unambiguous and complete response to my three questions above.
With all the disinformation and disingenuous responses from Hawai’i’s Dept of Health on releasable information under UIPA, the American public needs to see that someone will hold state officials accountable to the law and adhering to their own policies and procedures. I assume and trust that that responsibility falls to your Ombudsman office. I thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. Kanshaitashimasu.
Gotto wrote to the Ombudsman to appeal the Department of Health’s denial of her UIPA request. Currently, the appeals process for denial of access to records or information from Hawaii state agencies is as follows:
“§92F-15.5 Alternative method to appeal a denial of access. (a) When an agency denies a person access to a government record, the person may appeal the denial to the Office of Information Practices in accordance with rules adopted pursuant to section 92F-42(12). A decision to appeal to the office of information practices for review of the agency denial shall not prejudice the person’s right to appeal to the circuit court after a decision is made by the office of information practices.”
The proposed amendment to Hawaii law, SB2937, introduced by State Senator Will Espero, which would label certain requesters “vexatious,” also removes the ability of citizens to file a complaint with the Ombudsman if they believe their requests have been denied unjustifiably, unlike the first version of the proposal. If it passes the Hawaii House of Representatives during this session of the state legislature, it would be expected to become law by July 2010.
The Post & Email broke the news of the email exchanges between Hawaii Health Department personnel here.