FIA-19-0009 - In the Matter of Dr. Ayyakkann Manivannan

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On March 22, 2019, the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) denied a Privacy Act appeal and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeal filed by Dr. Ayyakkann Manivannan (Appellant) concerning one Privacy Act request and three FOIA requests he had made to the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). NETL issued its determination letter concerning Appellant's Privacy Act request on September 26, 2018. Appellant later resubmitted the request, which was open as of the date of OHA's decision in this matter. Since Appellant's appeal of the September 26, 2018, determination letter was untimely, and NETL had mooted the appeal by renewing its search for responsive records, OHA dismissed Appellant's Privacy Act appeal. The first FOIA request at issue in Appellant's appeal concerned his request  for records of 2014 visits to the facility at which he worked by an investigator and an individual (Individual) who alleged that the Appellant had engaged in misconduct. NETL contacted its security office, but the contractor operating that office indicated that, if the requested records had ever existed, they would have been disposed of pursuant to the contractor's records retention policy. NETL provided Appellant with e-mail records it located that concerned the investigator's visit. OHA found NETL's search for records responsive to Appellant's first FOIA request reasonable, and dismissed the appeal. The second FOIA request at issue in Appellant's appeal was open as of the date of OHA's decision in this matter. Accordingly, OHA determined that the matter was not ripe for appeal and dismissed Appellant's appeal. The third FOIA request at issue in the appeal sought records prepared by the investigator after meeting with the Appellant and the Individual, and also sought "substantiating evidentiary records for the claims in the 'Notice of Proposed Removal' that [NETL] issued to [Appellant]." NETL provided Appellant a transcript of an interview between the investigator and Appellant and a sworn statement from the Individual, but did not respond to the portions of Appellant's request seeking "substantiating evidentiary records" on the basis that Appellant had previously received a copy of the investigator's report and was arguing that NETL should have gathered additional proof of his alleged misconduct rather than relying on the information collected by the investigator. OHA agreed with NETL that Appellant's third FOIA request and appeal were argumentative rather than efforts to obtain records under the FOIA, and therefore dismissed the appeal. Having determined that each of the grounds for Appellant's appeal was without merit, OHA denied Appellant's appeal. OHA Case No. FIA-19-0009.