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FIA-13-0042 - In the Matter of Avery R. Webster

On July 17, 2013, OHA issued a decision granting in part, and denying in part, an appeal (Appeal) from a FOIA determination issued by the Office of Health, Safety and Security (HSS).  The Appellant had filed a FOIA request seeking copies of any and all records that contain the time of arrival and/or departure of a named OHA employee from the DOE Forrestal Building from August 2007 to the present.  The Appellant appealed the decision of HSS to withhold the responsive documents in their entirety pursuant to FOIA Exemption 6, and also contested the adequacy of the search conducted by HSS.  The withheld documents consisted of 126 pages revealing the exact dates and times that the named employee entered and exited the Forrestal Building, and the specific entrance and exit portals through which the employee passed. OHA reviewed the withheld documents and determined that HSS had properly withheld them in their entirety under Exemption 6.  OHA determined that release of the withheld information could subject the named employee to harassment, and possible injury, by revealing his patterns of being in a specific place at an exact time, and could have a deleterious effect on the named employee, and on employee morale and workplace efficiency.  OHA stated that these substantial privacy interests outweighed the public interest in disclosure, and therefore the release of the information at issue would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.  OHA further determined that HSS had properly withheld the responsive documents in their entirety. Upon review of the description of the search conducted by HSS, the OHA determined that HSS conducted an adequate search for responsive documents.  However, the OHA noted that in the FOIA request, the Appellant requested that DOE check all systems of records, including those in possession of the named employee, who works in OHA.  OHA concluded that the search should have been assigned to OHA, in addition to HSS.  Accordingly, OHA granted the Appeal to the extent that it remanded the matter back to OIR with directions that OIR assign the request to OHA for OHA to conduct a search for responsive records, and that OIR then issue a new determination with respect to OHA’s search.