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

November 29, 2013 - 9:25am


Freedom of Information Act Appeal

On November 25, 2013, OHA issued a decision granting in part an appeal (Appeal) from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) determination issued by the DOE’s Richland Operations Office (ROO). The Hanford Atomic Metals Trades Council (Appellant) sought categories of records concerning communications between DOE employees and 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 Exemptions 4 and 5. After reviewing the documents, OHA determined that ROO had applied Exemptions 4 and 5 properly to the great majority of the documents at issue. With regard to the information withheld under Exemption 4, the information consisted of Hanford contractors’ financial information regarding negotiations with the Appellant for a new collective bargaining agreement. This information was involuntarily provided to ROO by the contractors.  OHA determined that the contractors who submitted the Exemption 4 information could suffer from economic harm in its current negotiations if the information were released. OHA also found that most of the withheld information in the other documents was properly withheld under Exemption 5. Specifically, OHA found with regard to information originating from non-governmental personnel that such communications could still be considered “intra-agency” communications because of the “common interest” doctrine. Most of the information withheld pursuant to Exemption 5 was properly withheld because the information would be protected under the deliberative process privilege. The material consisted of recommendations, opinions, and assessments which were predecisional and deliberative. However, because several of the documents contained information not properly withheld under Exemption 4 or Exemption 5, OHA remanded the matter to ROO to issue a new determination regarding those documents.  OHA Case No. FIA-13-0059