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FIA-13-0031 - In the Matter of Avery R. Webster

On June 19, 2013, the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) issued a decision granting in part and denying in part an appeal (Appeal) from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) determination issued by the Office of Information Resources (OIR).  The Appellant appealed the OIR’s decision to withhold portions of released documents pursuant to Exemption 5 and contested the adequacy of its search.  The OIR stated that portions of the documents were withheld pursuant to the deliberative process privilege of Exemption 5. The OHA, acting through the Chief Information Officer pursuant to a delegation from the Director, OHA, reviewed the withheld information and determined that the OIR properly invoked the deliberative process privilege as the nature of the withheld information was predecisional and contained signatures/initials of concurring DOE employees which represented the individuals’ personal opinions pertaining to the draft text of certain OHA case documents.  The OIR stated that one office conducted a search for responsive documents:  the Office of Hearings and Appeals.  In response to inquiries, the official who conducted the search discovered three additional documents that may be responsive to the original FOIA request.  Therefore, the OHA remanded the case to the OIR for a new determination on these three additional documents only.