FOIA and OPM…
January 31, 2011 at 6:41 pm #122020
In April of 2009 I joined NEOGOV full time and one of my first tasks was to size up the federal market for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or better known today as Talent Acquisition Systems (TAS). To get the information on Monster and Avue is pretty easy. I knew who most of the customers were and could do some research on the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act web site (http://www.ffata.org) to get generic information on awards, renewals, etc. If you’ve never heard of http://www.ffata.org it is worth a spin.
So on April 7, 2009 I made the following request to OPM’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Office. My request was simple:
Under the Freedom of Information Act, I request copies of all OPM Form 1616s (Employment Services Interagency/Intergovernmental Agreements) for Fiscal Years 2007, 2008 and 2009 between OPM and other federal agencies.
If possible, I would appreciate to receive electronic images of these documents. However, if they must be photo copied and mailed, I authorize up to $50 for duplication fees. If the request will exceed that amount, please contact me for approval.
Please use my contact information below for delivery. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I received an auto-response without a tracking number within seconds. However, fast forward 2 weeks and nothing more from OPM. FOIAs are supposed to be complete in 20 days. So not waiting for any deadlines to pass, I located OPM’s FOIA Coordinator and requested a status update and tracking number (2009-02165).
Over the next several months I would trade some 44 emails with OPM. Mostly I was requesting a status update. In August 2009 I received an email from someone who was going to process my request. We traded a few emails, but what he gave me were the Letters and Bills for what OPM charged 141 agencies for USAJOBS. I didn’t ask for the Bills and Letters on USAJOBS, I specifically requested copies of “OPM Form 1616s”.
When I corrected them my request went back to the FOIA Coordinator. Again, we went through a series emails. The coordinator said the delay was in part that some of the offices were claiming that they were exempt from disclosing under (b)(2). Here is what (b)(2) says:
(b)(2) EXEMPTION – Internal Personnel Rules and Practices
This exemption exempts from mandatory disclosure records “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.” Courts have interpreted the exemption to encompass two distinct categories of information:
(a) internal matters of a relatively trivial nature–sometimes referred to as “low2” information; and
(b) more substantial internal matters, the disclosure of which would risk circumvention of a legal requirement–sometimes referred to as “high 2” information.
I asked for justification, but never received any response.
On November 12, 2009 (over 7 months later) and a week before quitting NEOGOV, I received a partial release of 150 pages of information. Not one of the Form 1616s was related to USA Staffing. I’m guessing the Center for Talent Services doesn’t want that information to be released to me even though President Obama wrote an Executive Order on day 2 in office saying to err on the side of releasing information to the public.
If anyone is interested, there were 44 docs related to funding agencies’ HR LOB efforts. The charges were typically $65k, $130k and $260k.
Anyway, on a recent thread (on LinkedIn) I posed the question of what does OPM charge for its products and services? The question was forwarded to OPM and the response was that if I wanted cost information on USAJOBS and USA Staffing from OPM to FOIA it and they will “ascertain what information is releasable”.
It’s not like I haven’t gone down this road before with OPM. So for your entertainment as well as mine, I will make formal FOIA requests and I will post each update.
More to follow… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxPbu5LtXo4
February 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm #122030
At 2:17pm on January 31, 2011 I made the following FOIA request to OPM…
Under the Freedom of Information Act, I request copies of signed/authorized OPM Form 1616s (Employment Services Interagency/Intergovernmental Agreements) or other funding documents for Fiscal Years 2009, 2010 and 2011 between OPM and federal agencies for USA Staffing and related services.
I would like to receive electronic images of these documents. I authorize up to $50 for duplication fees. If the request will exceed that amount, please contact me for approval.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
* 6 minutes later I received the following auto-response…
This is an automatic message.
Your request has been received by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)Requester Service Center in Washington, DC. Your request will be forwarded to the appropriate OPM office for response as quickly as possible. If you have not visited the OPM – FOIA web page, we strongly encourage you to do so athttp://www.opm.gov/efoia/ and review important information about the rules OPM follows in handling requests for records, such as: how to make a FOIA request; what fees may be charged; what records are available for public inspection; why some records are not released; and your right to appeal and then go to court if we refuse to release records.
Personnel and Medical Records for Current Federal Employees
Please note that OPM does not maintain official personnel folders or medical records for current or former Federal Employees (other than OPM employees). Current Federal employees can obtain these documents by contacting their employer’s Human Resources office.
Personnel and Medical Records for Former Federal Employees
Personnel folders (both military and civilian) and medical records for former Federal employees are stored at the NationalPersonnel Records Center. To obtain a copy, please mail or fax a signed and dated written request with your social security number, date of birth, the name of the last agency of employment, and the last date of employment to: The National Personnel Records Center, 111 Winnebago Street, St. Louis, MO 63118-4126. Fax #: 314/801-9269. More information is available on their website at: http://archives.gov/locations/ .
Information About a Federal Background Investigation
Thank you for contacting OPM’s FOIA Requester Service Center.
February 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm #122028
It’s been more than the allotted 20 days for the OPM initial response. Did you get any response? If so, please share it!
March 1, 2011 at 9:53 pm #122026
Here is an update to my FOIA request to OPM.
On Tuesday February 22nd I sent the following request to the OPM FOIA Coordinator:
It’s been 3 weeks since I made this request. Please provide a request/tracking ID as well as a status update and realistic timeline for fulfillment.
Best regards, Bryan
I received absolutely no response; zero, nada, zippo, zilch.
On Thursday February 24th I sent:
May I have the tracking number, status update and realistic timeline for fulfillment of this FOIA request? -Bryan
This morning, 4 weeks to the day from my submission, I sent:
May I have the tracking number, status update and realistic timeline for fulfillment of this FOIA request? Please with sugar on top.
I still have not received a response.
Under FOIA, OPM has 20 working days to respond. I would contend that today is that 20th day. They may receive a one-time extension of an additional 10 business days due to unusual circumstances, but OPM is not even providing me with a tracking ID.
March 3, 2011 at 8:27 pm #122024
On March 3, 2011 at 10:49AM I received the following email from the OPM FOIA Coordinator:
Sorry for the delayed response your tracking # is 2010 02851
I am trying to put together a release by March 18th
March 29, 2011 at 5:32 pm #122022
On March 21, 2011 at 10:50 AM I sent an email to OPM’s FOIA Coordinator asking:
How are we coming on the release?
On March 23, 2011 at 11:18AM I received the following response:
I have attached a document constituting an interim response to your FOIA request. We will provide the remaining documents as quickly as possible.
FOIA CoordinatorOffice of Personnel Management
For those of you keeping tabs on my FOIA request, you may view the document that was attached at:
While this document is interesting and shows that OPM is sitting on $350 million that should have been returned to the U.S. Treasury as required by law, it’s does not satisfy my FOIA request.
My FOIA request was for copies of the Form 1616s for USA Staffing for years 2009, 2010 and 2011. How hard can that be?
***Please note: My request is almost 2 months old. With the exception of the auto-response I received when I first made my request, I have had to initiate all the action to date.
BTW, $350 MILLION IS A LOT OF MONEY!!!
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