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Summary of Decisions - November 11, 2013 – November 15, 2013

November 15, 2013 - 9:49am

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Freedom of Information Act Appeals

On November 14, 2013, OHA issued a decision denying in part an appeal (Appeal) from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) determination issued by the DOE Richland Operations Office (ROO). The Hanford Atomic Metals Trades Council (Appellant) sought categories of records concerning communications between DOE employees and DOE-contractor employees at the DOE’s Hanford facility regarding collective bargaining, desired changes in wages, terms and conditions of employment, potential strikes, or closures. In its response, ROO withheld portions of a number of documents pursuant to FOIA Exemption 4 and 5. After reviewing the documents, OHA determined that Exemption 4 did not apply to any of the withheld information because the information itself did not consist of commercial of financial information. Nonetheless, OHA found that most of the remaining withheld information was properly withheld under Exemption 5. OHA found that, with regard to information originating from non-governmental personnel, such communications could still be considered “intra-agency” communications because of the “common interest” doctrine. Further, most of the information withheld pursuant to Exemption 5 was properly withheld because the information was protected under the deliberative process privilege. The material consisted of recommendations, opinions, and assessments which were predecisional and deliberative in nature. OHA remanded the matter to ROO to issue a new determination regarding information withheld in three documents where OHA found that the deliberative process privilege and Exemption 5 did not apply.  OHA Case No. FIA-13-0061

On November 15, 2013, OHA issued a decision remanding an appeal (Appeal) from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) determination issued by the DOE Office of Information Resources.  The Appellant appealed OIR’s decision to withhold information from the released documents pursuant to Exemption 5.  OHA reviewed OIR’s determination letter and concluded that was inadequate.  The determination letter was too vague and conclusory as it did not explain how the decision-making process would be compromised by release of the redacted information nor did it sufficiently indicate what information was withheld.  Moreover, the subject matter expert who reviewed the released documents and decided which information should be withheld from them explained that the redactions were made because the documents were in draft form.  However, as drafts are not per se exempt, OHA remanded the Appeal to OIR to issue a new determination letter. OHA Case No. FIA-13-0069
 

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