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Summary of Decisions - March 25, 2013 – March 29, 2013

March 29, 2013 - 10:54am


Personnel Security Hearing (10 CFR Part 710)

On March 29, 2013, a Hearing Officer issued a decision in which he determined that an individual’s access authorization should not be restored. In reaching this determination, the Hearing Officer found that the individual had not resolved security concerns associated with the individual’s failure to report in a DOE security questionnaire his: 1) failure to file tax returns for the period 2002 through 2010, 2) history of financial difficulties which have resulted in the loss of two homes and two bankruptcies, and 3) history of repeated citations and arrests by law enforcement.  The individual attributed his failure to report his failure to file tax returns as attributable to his personal denial about his tax problems and he asserted that he did not intend to deliberately deceive the local security office. Additionally, he explained his questionable financial history as being a result of outside circumstances and testified that he has started new financial practices in the eight months prior to the hearing. With regard to the numerous citations and arrests, he explained that they were a result of negligence and overzealous local code enforcement officers. However, the Hearing Officer determined that the individual’s testimony did not provide sufficient evidence to outweigh the derogatory information established by the record.  OHA Case No. PSH-12-0139 (Richard Cronin, H.O.)

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Appeals

On March 28, 2013, OHA issued a decision granting in part a FOIA Appeal filed by Partnership for Policy Integrity (the Appellant) of two determinations issued by the DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program Office (LGPO).  The Appellant’s request sought information concerning a loan guarantee application filed by a third party.  On January 17, 2013, and on February 5, 2013, LGPO issued determination letters releasing a total of 80 documents to the Appellant.  However, LGPO withheld portions of these documents under FOIA Exemptions 4 and 6.  In its Appeal, the Appellant contended that LGPO’s withholdings from six specific documents under Exemption 4 were improper.  OHA upheld the LGPO’s withholding from one of these documents.  However, OHA determined that the LGPO had failed to adequately justify its withholding decisions relating to several documents at issue in the Appeal.  Accordingly, OHA remanded those portions of the Appeal to the LGPO.  OHA Case No. FIA-13-0017

On March 26, 2013, OHA issued a decision denying an appeal (Appeal) from a FOIA determination issued by the Golden Field Office (GFO).  The Appellant appealed the GFO’s decision to apply FOIA Exemption 4 and withhold information pursuant to the trade secrets exemption in a document that it released to the Appellant.  OHA determined that the GFO sufficiently invoked the trade secrets exemption to the withheld material.  Thus, OHA denied the Appeal.  OHA Case No. FIA-13-0013

Whistleblower Appeal (10 CFR Part 708

On March 27, 2013, OHA issued a decision granting in part an Appeal filed by Cassondra Stark of the DOE’s Richland Operations Office’s (RL) Employee Concerns Program’s (ECP) dismissal of her whistleblower complaint for lack of jurisdiction.  The OHA agreed with the ECP’s dismissal of Ms. Stark’s claims regarding excessive rental costs and items on rent, but concluded that the ECP improperly dismissed Ms. Stark’s claim relating to her alleged disclosure of an abuse of authority by her supervisor.  Therefore, OHA granted in part and denied in part the Appeal, thereby remanding in part the Appeal to the ECP. OHA Case No. WBU-13-0003