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FIA-14-0038 - In the Matter of Tim Hadley

On June 24, 2014, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) denied a Freedom of Information Act Appeal (FOIA) filed by Tim Hadley (Appellant) of a determination issued by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).  In his Appeal, the Appellant challenged OIG’s withholdings under Exemptions 4, 5, 6, and 7(C).  OHA found that OIG properly withheld the information under all four exemptions.  The information withheld under Exemption 4 was commercial and financial information the release of which would cause substantial competitive harm to the submitter because it would give competitors an undue advantage when submitting proposals in the future.  The information withheld under Exemption 5 reflected the personal opinions of the writer of the information.  The information withheld under Exemption 6 applied to particular individuals, such as names, initials, and signatures; titles; and telephone numbers.  Release of the information would compromise a significant privacy interest of the person named who is not a federal employee.  The information identifying the names and signatures of the current federal OIG employees whose information was withheld, would also compromise a significant privacy interest.  Federal employees involved in law enforcement possess protectable privacy interests in their identities.  OHA has consistently found that OIG is a law enforcement agency.  Release of any information could result in identifying those OIG employees.  In balancing the privacy interests found, we must also consider whether release would further the public interest by shedding light on the operations and activities of the government.  We find the public interest in the withheld information is minimal at best.  Therefore, the privacy interest outweighs the public interest.  The information withheld under Exemption 7(C) was the same information withheld under Exemption 6.  Our only question is whether the records were compiled for law enforcement purposes.  We find that the documents were compiled for such a purpose.  Therefore, OHA denied the Appeal.