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Hawaiian newspapers win access to football coach's contract

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Hawaiian newspapers win access to football coach’s contract

  • The state’s Office of Information Practices ordered the University of Hawaii to release coach June Jones’ contract; his five-year, $4 million extension will make him the state’s highest-paid public employee.

Sep. 5, 2003 — When University of Hawaii football coach June Jones signs a contract extension next week, full details of the agreement must be made public under an order issued last month by the state’s Office of Information Practices.

The order ends a 4 1/2-year legal battle between Hawaiian news organizations and the university over the release of Jones’ 1998 contract. The Office of Information Practices (OIP) decision applies to the coach’s 1998 contract as well as the five-year, $4 million extension he is expected to sign next week.

The Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star Bulletin originally requested the contract in February 1999 under the state’s Uniform Information Practices Act. After much stonewalling by the university, the OIP issued a directive in August 2001 for the publicly funded university to release the contract. When the university didn’t respond, the OIP issued a second directive in March 2002. However, it wasn’t until last month, after a third OIP directive, that the university finally complied with state law.

Advertiser business editor Sandra Oshiro, who first petitioned for the contract’s release, blamed the lengthy delay on a lack of staff, resources and enforcement capabilities at the OIP.

“The OIP is always extremely slow in enforcing public disclosure laws,” she said. “It has become a very significant problem for us.”

Jones’ original contract was a five-year deal worth $210,000 a year, not including $40,000 in housing allowances. Jones also received numerous paid vacations, private school tuition for his two children, and bonuses totaling $70,000 a year. According to the university’s Board of Regents, Jones’ new five-year extension will be worth an annual base salary of $800,000 — making the former NFL head coach the state’s highest-paid public employee.

Jones and university officials had claimed that disclosure of the contract would be an unwarranted invasion of Jones’ privacy. Jones also claimed that he was assured by the university’s former athletic director that his 1998 contract would be kept confidential when he signed it. In its rulings, the OIP stated the university didn’t have the authority to circumvent the state’s open records laws.

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