Declaration of Stacie Graves – Rojas v. FAA 5

Today we look at the Stacie Graves Declaration. We will simply be posting the Declaration – not actually addressing the arguments until we file our Response.

I, Stacie Graves, declare as follows:

  1. I am currently employed as an Equal Employment Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the Office of Civil Rights with a duty location in AtlantiCity, NJ. I have held this position since April 26, 2009. I make the statements herein based omy personal knowledge as well as knowledge and information acquired in the performance of my official duties.

  2. The purpose of this declaration is to provide information as to the adequacy of the search conducted for documents responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA requests. Plaintiff’s FOIrequest 2016-002612 and FOIA request 2016-008952, was processed by the FAA ‘s Office of Civil Rights, and I was responsible for coordinating and conducting all activities associated with the administration of this request.

  3. At the time of the processing of the above mentioned FOIA requests, my duties included the processing of and responding to incoming Freedom of Information Act requests and other activities associated with the administration of the Freedom of In formation Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act of 1974 (PA).

  4. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) advises, represents, and assists the FAA Administrator on civil rights and equal opportunity matters that ensure: a) the elimination of unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, creed, sexual orientation, and individuals with disabilities in federally operated and federally assistetransportation programs; b) that all beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries of these programsincluding employees and potential employees, are offered equal opportunities to participate ithem; and c) a positive working environment in the Federal Aviation Administration by valuing, using, and managing the differences that individuals bring to the workplace. The OCR is primarily responsible for ensuring the FAA ‘s enforcement of federal non discrimination laws – such as Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Section 504 of the RehabiIitation Act of 1973; Section 13 of the Federal Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972;  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968; Title IX of the Education Act Amendments of 1972; and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 in all of the FAA ‘s internal and external programs and policies. FAA employees that feel they have suffered from discrimination within the workplace have the right to file an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint through the FAA ‘s National EEO Pre-Complaint Process.

  5. EEO complaint files are compiled by the FAA as pa1t of the internal investigatory or adjudicatory proceedings associated with the EEO process for complaints of discrimination. typical EEO complaint file will contain the complaint. correspondence between the complainant and OCR staff, correspondence between the complainant and the EEO counselor. the EEO counselor’s report and the Report of Investigation (ROI). These materials include the complainant’s name, Social Security number, and information about the complainant‘s age, sex, race, and national origin, as well as information identifying witnesses, investigators, and the manager or employees accused of discrimination and descriptions of the allegedly discriminatory acts. The EEO Counselor’s Report, contained in all complaint files, describes all allegations of discrimination raised by the complainant, any advice that the counselor provided the complainant and agency officials with whom the counselor met in attempts to informally resolve the complaint, and any documentation collected by the counselor or presented to the counselor bthe complainant in relation to the complaint. All complaint files contain emails and other correspondence sent among the EEO Counselor and OCR staff. These e-mails directly and indirectly reveal the name of the complainants and the identities of third parties directly or indireclly associated with the investigation into the alleged discriminatory activities. The ROI included in an EEO complaint file is prepared by a federal contractor who operates under a confidentiality agreement. The ROI is prepared to assist OCR in its deliberations about whether to issue findings of discrimination. A typical ROI contains duplicate copies of the complaint and relevant standard forms and correspondence, an index, memoranda from the investigator, copies or descriptions of evidence gathered or created as part of the investigation, and a summary of the investigation’s findings. The evidence usually includes items such affidavits from FAA employees and the complainant.

  6. Individuals have a privacy interest in their identifying information. information about themselves, and in their reputation and personal honor. That is especially true where allegations of EEO violations have been made by them or against them. If the FAA were to disclose whether or not any EEO complaints were made, those privacy interests would be invaded.

  7. In FOIA Request 2016-002612, Plaintiff sought all records concerning EEO complaints filed against Joseph Teixeira from January 1, 2013 to the present

  8. On March 7, 20 16, the FAA’s Office of Civil Rights sent the Plaintiff determination letter in which it responded that the FAA could neither confirm nor deny thexistence of any responsive documents because any such confirmation or denial would constitute an unwarranted invasion of the targeted individual’s personal privacy as protected by Exemptions 6 and 7(C) of the FOIA.

  9. On March 16, 2016, the Plaintiff filed an appeal of the FAA’S determination letter, which the FAA has yet to respond to.

  10. In FOIA Request 2015-008952, dated August 23, 20 15, Plaintiff sought: I) listing of all EEO cases submitted since February 2014 to July 20 14; 2) a listing of all EEO cases submitted from March 2015 to August 2015, including a spreadsheet or other electronic Iisting of the cases filed with a brief description of the claims or other information provided by the submitter and the assigned EEO counselor to the case; 3) guidance, policy, emails, documents, chats, etc., in the OCR concerning the assignment, processing, and/or handling of EEO cases related to changes to the hiring program related to Air Traffic Control Specialists and the Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program.

  11. On August 28, 2015, the FAA sent a letter to the Plaintiff acknowledging receipt of the FOIA request and notifying that it had been assigned to be handled by the Office of Civil Rights.

  12. On September 16, 2015, I was assigned to process FOIA 2015-008952. Leon Whilden, Equal Employment Specialist, conducted the search in the “icomplaints” database for all EEO complaints initiated during February 2014 to July 2014. The search reflected 224 EEO cases for dates February 1, 2014 to July 31, 2014, and 263 cases for dates March 1, 2015 to August 31,2015.

  13. On September 18, 2015, Leon Whilden conducted a search of the Microsoft Outlook email accounts of the Office of Civil Rights personnel who process agency EEO Complaints. The search identified 60 pages of emails related to changes to the hiring program related to Air Traffic Control Specialists and CTI.

  14. Regarding the request for any guidance, policy, documents or chats related to the hiring program related to Air Traffic Control Specialists and the CTI program, Leon Whilden conducted a search of the Office of Civil Rights which did not reveal any responsive documents.

  15. On October 30, 2015, the Office of Civil Rights sent the Plaintiff a determination letter in which it attached a total of 151 pages of responsive documents, including a 91 page listing of all EEO cases for the requested time periods as created by OCR and the 60 pages of emails. Redactions of personal identifying information were made to the case names pursuant to FOIA ‘s Exemption 6 to protect the privacy interests of the EEO complainants. Redactions were also made to the responsive emails pursuant to FOIA ‘s exemption 6 which pertains to information the release of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. The determination letter also notified the Plaintiff that the Office of Civil Rights was unable to locate any further documents concerning the assignment, processing, and/or handling of EEO cases related to changes to the hiring program related to Air Traffic Control Specialists and CTI, as these records do not exist.

  16. On November 3, 2015, the Plaintiff sent an email requesting the reconsideration of the determination made by the Office of Civil Rights with respect to his FOIA request. Among his arguments, Plaintiff raised the fact that the October 30, 2015 determination letter did not address the redactions that were made to the 60 pages of responsive emails.

  17. I conducted a second review of the responsive emails initially sent to the Plaintiff on October 30, 2015, and consulted with FAA attorney Ms. Linda Ubokudom. And after second review, we concluded that certain information that had previously been redacted could be released.

  18. On November 20, 2015, I sent the Plaintiff an email in response to his request for reconsideration in which I informed him that the Office of Civil Rights had reviewed the responsive documents that had been initially sent to him. I fu1ther attached a revised version of the 60 pages of responsive emails that had initially been sent to the Plaintiff. Since we inadvertently omitted from our initial determination letter the reason why portions of the responsive documents had been redacted, l included in my email a paragraph explaining that the redactions to the responsive documents were made pursuant to FOIA ‘s exemption 6 to protect information that pertained to individuals the release of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

    I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.

    Sworn to and signed this 10th day of March,  2017

Stacie Graves
Equal Employment Specialist
Federal Aviation Administration