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FIA-12-0057 - In the Matter of Tom Thielen

Tom Thielen filed a Privacy Act Appeal regarding a determination issued to him by the Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office (Richland).  Richland had previously withheld certain information from Mr. Thielen’s employee concerns file and Mr. Thielen appealed that determination.  On Appeal, the Office of Hearings and Appeals remanded the matter back to Richland for further consideration, finding that Richland improperly applied Privacy Act Exemption (k)(5) in withholding the information.  In its new determination, Richland withheld the same information, this time on the grounds that the withheld information was not “about” Mr. Thielen and, therefore, was not his record under the Privacy Act.  Mr. Thielen again appealed the determination.  In the instant Appeal, OHA reviewed in camera the documents at issue and concluded that Richland properly withheld certain information – third-party names, job titles, and certain statements pertaining only to the third-party witnesses – because they were clearly not about Mr. Thielen and, therefore, not his record under the Privacy Act.  However, OHA identified two statements that are about Mr. Thielen and, therefore, were improperly withheld.  Consequently, OHA denied the portion of the Appeal pertaining to the withheld information that it found to be not about Mr. Thielen.  Further, OHA granted the Appeal with respect to the statements that it identified as being about Mr. Thielen, and remanded the matter back to Richland for further processing on the narrow issue of whether to release the two statements or issue a new determination justifying their withholding.