It’s the holiday season and I don’t believe that anybody expects much government activity, except maybe for emergency services and utilities. So the folks at Agency X (see the prior post), are receiving a courtesy reprieve. We’ve heard nothing from any of the officials we’ve contacted regarding our request to talk about the exaggerated estimates of time it would take the staff to provide Grassroot Institute of Hawaii with a handful of travel documents.
To recap the situation, Grassroot Institute staff sent out a “trial balloon” request for copies of expense accounts relating to any travel to the Mainland or to foreign countries. They sent them to all of the major state agencies. The goal was twofold: first, to have the travel information to post in database form on the Grassroot Institute websites, and second, to see how responsive these state agencies really are.
It was a softball request. Kids stuff. Not too much chance of there being anything too terribly controversial. I’m an outsider, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I never, however, anticipated government officials having the audacity to suggest that it could take 50 hours or more to simply go to their file cabinets and pull the documents. And once they would have the documents in hand, how could it be possible to need 50 or 60 more staff hours to remove the minimal personal information from the documents they needed 50 hours to retrieve.
Outrageous, but a number of state agencies responded with what’s clearly inflated estimates. What we don’t know is whether these are typical responses. Does every citizen encounter this kind of resistance? We’ll find out and report the findings.
For now, we’re giving every possible benefit of any imaginable doubt to Agency X to do something that requires no legal advice whatsoever: we simply want someone to respond to our requests to talk about the situation.
We’d like to hear from readers about the way we’re handling this stalemate. I admit that I’m a new guy to the islands and I have practically no experience dealing with officials with the Hawaii state government. However, I’m not new to making requests for records and documents that are supposed to be open for inspection. I’ve had to roll up my sleeves on many occasions and, once in a great while, turn to attorneys to press the case in court.
I’ve never, however, had officials at an agency avoid me over something as innocent as a travel document or, even worse, a simple request for an agency’s internal telephone directory.
Think of 2009 as the “Year of Transparency in Government.”