OSC Garneau letter from

Todd Feathers filed this request with the Office of Special Counsel of the United States of America.
Tracking # AF-17-0002
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Appeal

Communications

From: Todd Feathers

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

1) A letter, dated Dec. 15, 2014, sent by the Office of Special Counsel to the President of the United States, and other agencies, regarding Dennis and Heather Garneau, employees of the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, MA.

I ask that all fees be waived as I am a journalist employed by the Lowell Sun and I intend to use the requested records to publish articles in the public interest and not for any commercial purposes.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Todd Feathers

From: Request, Foia

Dear Mr. Feathers,

Please find a response letter attached.

Christopher Kurt
FOIA-PA Officer
U.S. Office of Special Counsel
Ph (202) 254-3716
Fax (202) 254-3711

From: Todd Feathers

Hello,

I am writing to appeal the Office of Special Counsel's decision to reject my request for a Dec. 15, 2015 letter regarding Dennis and Heather Garneau.

On Feb. 15, the OSC responded to my request, citing exemptions 6 and 7(c).

"Without written consent, proof of death, official acknowledgment of an investigation, or an overriding public interest, confirming or denying the existence of Whistleblower Disclosure records concerning an individual would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, or could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy," the agency wrote.

This argument is mistaken in several respects. To begin with, I have no problem with OSC's desire to protect any whistleblowers whose names may be included in the Dec. 15, 2014 letter. But it is easy to do this by redacting those names and releasing the rest of the document. Federal law states that an agency shall "consider whether partial disclosure of information is possible whenever the agency determines that a full disclosure of a requested record is not possible; and ... take reasonable steps necessary to segregate and release nonexempt information" (FOIA Improvement Act of 2016). OSC has clearly not taken the very reasonable step of redacting names while releasing the rest of the document.

Secondly, OSC writes that disclosure of the document would be appropriate if there were "official acknowledgement of an investigation" or "an overriding public interest." On Dec. 16, 2016, the VA Office of the Inspector General responded to a request I made for files regarding its investigation into Dennis and Heather Garneau. In its letter, the VA OIG wrote "some of the records you requested are part of an ongoing law enforcement investigation." That clearly constitutes official acknowledgement of an investigation. The investigation is also common knowledge at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, where Dennis and Heather Garneau were led off the premises in handcuffs. Given the nature of the crimes allegedly committed by the Garneaus -- misappropriating government funds to purchase equipment for their private business -- and the fact that Heather Garneau remains an employ of the same VA hospital she is under investigation for stealing from, I think there is an obvious and overriding public interest in the disclosure of the OSC's Dec. 15, 2014 letter.

I therefore ask you to overrule the OSC's decision to withhold this public record and instruct the agency to send it to me as soon as possible. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Todd Feathers

From: Office of Special Counsel

A letter stating that the request appeal has been received and is being processed.

From: Ndongo, Tarik

March 10, 2017
Dear Mr. Feathers,
Please see the attached response to your Freedom of Information Act request, regarding AF-17-0002.
FOIA Team
U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
202-254-3600
NOTE: The information contained in this e-mail message, including any attached files, is intended only for the recipient(s) to whom it is addressed. This message contains information that is sensitive, confidential, and/or protected by the attorney work product, law enforcement, deliberative process, or other privilege. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient(s) is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please contact the sender immediately and delete the material from your computer system.

From: Ndongo, Tarik

March 16, 2017
Dear Mr. Feathers,
Please see the attached response to your Freedom of Information and/or Privacy Acts Appeal, regarding AF-17-0002.
FOIA Team
U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
202-254-3600

NOTE: The information contained in this e-mail message, including any attached files, is intended only for the recipient(s) to whom it is addressed. This message contains information that is sensitive, confidential, and/or protected by the attorney work product, law enforcement, deliberative process, or other privilege. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient(s) is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please contact the sender immediately and delete the material from your computer system.

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