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FIA-12-0023 - In the Matter of Thomas R. Thielen

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) Director granted in part and denied in all other respects a Privacy Act Appeal filed by Thomas R. Thielen.  Mr. Thielen filed a request with the DOE’s Richland Operations Office for documents regarding a safety concern he raised to CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC).  Richland issued a determination letter which stated that, according to CHPRC’s contract with DOE, CHPRC’s employee concern records are the property of the contractor and not subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act.  Richland released a copy of Mr. Thielen’s DOE employee concern file, but withheld portions of the investigation summary included in the file pursuant to Exemption (k)(5) of the Privacy Act.  According to the DOE, the information deleted from this document was obtained from sources who were promised confidentiality in exchange for their information.  OHA found that Privacy Act Exemption (k)(5) does not apply to Mr. Thielen’s employee concern file at issue.  The information in question is not “investigatory material compiled solely for the purpose of determining suitability, eligibility or qualifications for Federal civilian employment, . . . or access to classified information . . . “, and therefore Richland’s initial determination to withhold under Exemption (k)(5) was incorrect.  OHA remanded to matter to Richland to either release the requested information in its entirety or justify withholding any portions of it under the Privacy Act.  Accordingly, OHA granted the Appeal in part and denied the Appeal in all other respects.