UH Foundation bill unlikely to survive
The proposal offered an exemption from the open-records law
A bill that would have exempted the University of Hawaii Foundation from the state open records law is likely to die in committee, according to Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto.
Sakamoto said he will recommend the committee hold Senate Bill 83 when it meets Wednesday.
The bill is based on legislation passed by other states after court rulings that opened up the records of other public university foundations, said Donna Vuchinich, the president of the University of Hawaii Foundation.
The bill would keep donation strategies and all information about individual donors except for a donor's name, donation date and amount and purpose secret. But if a donor requested anonymity, the donor's name would also remain secret.
Les Kondo, the director of the state Office of Information Practices, told the Senate Education Committee on Friday that private information maintained by the foundation is already protected by existing law.
Kondo said the bill may also have the unintended effect of stopping access to information that may be needed to scrutinize how the university works.
Kondo used the possible example of an anonymous donor who also received a large number of contracts from the university.
Under existing law, the courts or OIP could weigh the public interest in revealing the donor's name against the privacy rights of an individual. But if the bill were to pass, it would take away that option, Kondo said.
The Society of Professional Journalists and UH-Manoa journalism professor Bev Keever also testified against the measure.
"The credibility of all UH research may be tainted or perceived to be tainted if the source of funding is not or can not be disclosed," Keever said. "Secrecy sparks distrust and rumors."
After the hearing, Vuchinich said the foundation needs to have guidelines on what it can tell donors about their privacy. She said the foundation adheres to ethical standards.
"I have to do what's in the interest of the donor and the organization," she said.