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Summary of Decisions - April 7, 2014 – April 11, 2014

April 11, 2014 - 2:48pm


Personnel Security (10 CFR Part 710)

On April 10, 2014, an OHA Administrative Judge issued a decision in which he determined that an individual’s DOE access authorization should not be granted.  The individual, who had one alcohol-related arrest, a history of blackouts, a history of excessive alcohol used to cope with loneliness and depression, and an acquired tolerance to alcohol, was diagnosed by a DOE psychologist with Alcohol-Related Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)-Binge Drinking.  At the hearing, the individual candidly acknowledged that she had an alcohol problem and described her enrollment in an Intensive Outpatient Program and involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous.  Despite showing that she had made extraordinary progress in a relatively short period of time, the Administrative Judge found that the individual had only recently accepted that she had an alcohol problem (less than two months prior to the hearing) and had abstained from using alcohol for only six and a half months.   Accordingly, the Administrative Judge found that the individual had not yet mitigated the security concerns raised by her alcohol disorder.  OHA Case No. PSH-14-0007 (Steven L. Fine)

On April 7, 2014, an OHA Administrative Judge issued a decision finding that the DOE should not restore an individual’s security clearance. The derogatory information at issue in the proceeding involved: (1) the individual’s failure to file or pay Federal income taxes, and other debts; and (2) inaccurate information that the individual provided on a 2013 Questionnaire for National Security Positions (QNSP) about a variety of matters.  After carefully reviewing the record, the Administrative Judge held that while the individual has entered into a payment plan with the IRS and had apparently extinguished his 2003 Federal tax liability, it is simply too soon to tell if he will satisfy all his obligations to the Federal government, including his outstanding debts for tax years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010.  With regard to his other outstanding debts, the Administrative Judge held that even though the individual had made some good faith efforts to compromise and settle with two of his eight creditors, he still had six outstanding debts which need attention.  Finally, the Administrative Judge found that while the individual had convinced her that technological challenges, coupled with his unique situation, explained in part why he had not accurately reported information on his electronic QNSP, she decided that other evidence in the record weighed against mitigation on this matter.  OHA Case No. PSH-14-0004 (Ann S. Augustyn)

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Appeal

On April 11, 2014, OHA issued a decision denying a FOIA appeal filed by John Qualls of a determination by the DOE’s Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) regarding his request for audio and video security recordings pertaining to a particular BPA substation.  In March 2014, BPA issued a determination indicating that it did not have records responsive to Mr. Qualls’ request.  On appeal, in response to OHA’s inquiry, BPA’s physical security manager, the individual with the most knowledge of the subject matter of the FOIA request, informed OHA that the requested records do not exist.  Because the FOIA pertains only to records in an agency’s possession at the time of a request, and does not require an agency to create records in response to a FOIA request, OHA denied the appeal.  OHA Case No. FIA-14-0021