On June 14, 2013, a civil lawsuit was filed, charging multiple FAA failures to comply with the FOIA Laws. To clarify the charges, a 58-page pleading was then prepared: Plaintiff’s Memo, Presenting Details of his Complaint. This was filed on August 8, 2013. The pleading offered background on the Lewis-FAA case, and included 34 Exhibits to illustrate the fourteen FOIA requests for which FAA had failed to comply. The 34 links to the right provide quick access; hover over each link for descriptions.
Below is an HTML version of Plaintiff’s Memo, Presenting Details of his Complaint. This HTML formatting facilitated the inclusion of extra annotations, as well as links to additional relevant records.
Here is a link to a PDF of the 58-page pleading: PDF copy
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF OREGON
JEFFREY NATHAN LEWIS,
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION,
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta,
Civil Case No. 3:13-CV-0992-HZ
PLAINTIFF’S MEMORANDUM, PRESENTING
- This complaint was brought under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, et seq., as amended, in order to compel Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) to disclose records withheld wrongfully from FAA’s responses to numerous FOIA requests and subsequent appeals by Plaintiff. FOIA requires that federal agencies
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respond to public requests for documents in order to increase public understanding of the workings of government.
- The records sought by Plaintiff are all releasable, but Defendant FAA officials have arbitrarily chosen to impede Plaintiff’s FOIA rights with delays and other improper strategies, not consistent with either the spirit or the statutes of FOIA.
- On June 14, 2013, Plaintiff filed this civil suit at the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. At that time, Plaintiff utilized the District Court online form, which included instructions to be as brief as possible in stating the facts of the case.
- The civil suit as filed by Plaintiff consists of three Claims. Claim-I centers on Defendant FAA’s mis-application of FOIA Exemptions and subsequent improper and excessive redaction of disclosable information. Claim-II centers on Defendant FAA’s failure to comply with time limits for FOIA appeal responses, as established at 5 U.S.C § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii). Claim-III centers on Defendant FAA’s failure to comply with time limits for FOIA request responses, as established at 5 U.S.C § 552(a)(6)(A)(i).
- The Table below provides a quick reference outline of the contents of this pleading. The Background provides context for understanding Plaintiff’s proper actions (speaking up about safety, fraud and other issues) and Defendant FAA’s improper reactions (retaliating against Defendant), over the course of Plaintiff’s 22-year Air Traffic Control career. All Facts are supported by agency records, many of which were concealed by agency but slowly obtained by Plaintiff, mostly via other FOIA requests. Plaintiff will promptly produce copies of all substantiating records, upon request. Additionally, a copy of this pleading (with links to supplemental exhibits) is viewable online, at:
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CONTENTS of THIS PLEADING
||OVERVIEW: Why these records are needed by Plaintiff
||BACKGROUND-1: Defendant FAA’s pattern of animosity toward Plaintiff, including retaliation for his speaking up about safety and fraud issues at his early work locations
||BACKGROUND-2: Defendant FAA’s many slanders and other actions leading to Plaintiff’s improper removal, and Defendant FAA’s subsequent concealment of records, which obstructed Plaintiff’s Due Process
||FACTS: Advocacy for Transparency and Openness in FOIA, as articulated by President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and DoT Deputy General Counsel Knapp
6. Plaintiff hopes that preparing and submitting this PLAINTIFF’S MEMORANDUM, PRESENTING DETAILS OF HIS COMPLAINT, will aid the Court and FAA’s Counsel to thoroughly understand the issues behind this case, so as to enable an efficient and just resolution. Plaintiff plainly and fully accepts that this complaint seeks only to
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enlist the Court’s assistance, to compel Defendant to immediately produce records, so as to become compliant with the FOIA statutes at 5 U.S.C. § 552.
- This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B).
- The subject matter of this complaint includes disclosable agency records which Defendant FAA continues to hold and conceal. This Court has jurisdiction to enjoin Defendant from withholding agency records and also has jurisdiction to order the production of any agency records improperly withheld.
- Plaintiff was employed by Defendant FAA and served as an air traffic controller for twenty-two years, beginning in December 1986. He had been fully certified to work at towers in Oregon, Colorado and California. He observed irregularities at his FAA workplace and frequently spoke up to correct them. As discussed below at paragraph 45 through paragraph 50, Defendant FAA retaliated against Plaintiff and ended his career prematurely, immediately after Plaintiff had filed a grievance.
- Defendant is the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), a very large governmental organization with roughly 50,000 permanent employees. Defendant FAA’s organization is structured with many parallel and overlapping organizational sub-units, which creates a large potential for improper actions without critical oversight. Agency records tend to be
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concealed by the very same officials who want to avoid accountability for their improper actions.
- In his complaint, Plaintiff also listed FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. Plaintiff has no evidence that Mr. Huerta was directly involved in the alleged mishandling of Plaintiff’s FOIA requests; however, as Administrator, Mr. Huerta is the one FAA official who would ultimately be accountable for failures by his subordinate managers and employees.
OVERVIEW: A Brief Synopsis; and why
these records are needed by Plaintiff
- A Brief Synopsis: Plaintiff served as an air traffic controller from 1986 until 2008. He had repeatedly spoken up about safety failures and other workplace problems. He had no misconduct history or other negative work record, yet Defendant FAA arbitrarily fired Plaintiff, effective November 6, 2008. Plaintiff’s basic right to have Due Process and protect his good reputation depended on his ability to collect FAA records. When Defendant FAA refused to provide copies of these needed records through more direct procedures, Plaintiff began to utilize FOIA. Defendant FAA continued to conceal these records by misapplying FOIA exemptions, ignoring FOIA response timelines, and ignoring FOIA Appeal response timelines. However, through persistence and careful
 Plaintiff first spoke up about a near-midair collision in 1989, while working at the airport in Troutdale, OR. The near-midair was at Portland Airport (PDX), caused when Plaintiff’s coworker was distracted by watching the NCAA basketball playoffs on a TV in the tower cab. In another case, Plaintiff spoke up about an actual midair collision at the Reid-Hillview Airport (RHV) in San Jose, CA, in May 1999, which management had failed to report to NTSB for their investigation. Plaintiff also witnessed (but did not speak up about) the potentially dangerous use of TV’s, laptops and other personal electronic devices at four other FAA workplaces: Salem, OR; Broomfield, CO; Fremont, CA; and Concord, CA.
 Plaintiff first used FOIA in July 2007, five months after he had been inexplicably locked out from his workplace, on February 16, 2007. His first FOIA request sought records that (hopefully) would explain why he had been locked out. Plaintiff remained locked out for 21-months, and was mostly in a fully-paid status, before he was fired in November 2008.
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records management, Plaintiff has been able to produce some of the concealed records, which substantiate a series of slanders and other misconducts by FAA officials. In the absence of these agency misconducts, Plaintiff would never have been fired.
- These records, which Defendant FAA continues to conceal, need to be properly released so that they may illuminate the misconducts and other failures by subordinate FAA officials. If presented to the FAA Administrator, and subsequently reviewed with fair and just consideration, the FAA records would reasonably produce a corrective action by Defendant FAA.
- The office of the FAA Administrator has a history of routinely failing to investigate and take actions to correct charges of misconduct by FAA officials, unless the charging party provides incontrovertible evidence of FAA misconduct.
- Officials within the Defendant FAA organization are aware of this extreme evidentiary threshold, and have become accustomed to routinely impeding the release of those FAA records that serve as incontrovertible evidence of FAA misconduct. As a consequence, fully improper agency misconducts, such as whistleblower retaliations, can occur and are routinely sustained by Defendant FAA, while the Due Process rights of the damaged employee are fully impeded.
- Defendant FAA substantially damaged Plaintiff. Plaintiff’s retirement pension was effectively ‘stolen’ by Defendant FAA when they arbitrarily fired Plaintiff, then
 The FAA Administrator is a Presidential appointee and serves a limited term. As such, it seems reasonable that a new agency head would tend to be very conservative in ordering investigations of alleged misconducts that occurred under prior FAA Administrators. It also seems reasonable that an agency employee charged with an alleged misconduct should always have a right to vigorously defend his/her good reputation, via the collection of factual agency records. In this case, Plaintiff was denied that right, because Defendant FAA refuses to comply with FOIA.
 Plaintiff’s right to work and collect a substantial FAA income has been arbitrarily denied. Plaintiff’s capacity to provide for his dependent children has been severely diminished.
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negotiated to ‘give back the stolen goods’, on the condition that Plaintiff would ‘voluntarily retire’ at age-50.
- To ensure Plaintiff would not reject this offer, Defendant FAA arbitrarily concealed key records needed in Plaintiff’s self-defense. A detailed chronology of these concealed records, with links to PDF copies, is viewable at:
- Defendant FAA continues to conceal many other records, which Plaintiff needs so that he might be made whole by the FAA Administrator.
BACKGROUND-1: Defendant FAA’s pattern
of animosity toward Plaintiff, including
retaliation for his speaking up about safety
and fraud issues at his early work locations
- INITIAL HIRE (1986): Plaintiff hired on as an air traffic controller in December 1986. He passed the FAA Academy program at Oklahoma City.
- TROUTDALE TOWER (1987-1991):
- Plaintiff’s first air traffic control tower assignment was at the Troutdale Airport, in Oregon, where he began working in March 1987. He completed his on-the-job training (OJT) and was fully certified six months later. Plaintiff volunteered for and was recognized for numerous additional duties, such as coordinating the Aviation Education Program for all FAA control towers in the state of Oregon.
- In early March 1989, Plaintiff was given a letter of commendation, signed by his Hub manager, John Coppinger. The Letter of Commendation read:
 Despite Plaintiff’s clean work record, with no misconduct history in more than twenty years as an FAA Air Traffic Controller, Defendant FAA fired Plaintiff on 11/6/08, just six months prior to Plaintiff turning age-50. This arbitrary action by Defendant FAA stripped Plaintiff of his eligibility to retire at age-50 and collect the retirement pension he had earned. It meant Plaintiff had to wait until age-62 to draw that earned retirement pension.
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“(I) commend you, Jeff, and thank you for your excellent work in the Aviation Education Program and am confident it will continue in the future.”
- Also in early March 1989, Plaintiff was given an exceptional annual performance evaluation, which included a cash award. His manager at Troutdale Tower, John Mollinet, wrote this:
“To just meet requirements is simply not enough for him. He always gives a one-hundred percent plus effort. He is very highly self-motivated. His goal is to excel. … This is an extraordinary and unusual young man. His activities, involvement and dedication are most unusual for a controller at this level facility. He works at a high energy level and continues to display great growth potential. Jeff is ready to take on the responsibilities and challenges of a much more complex facility.”
- In late March 1989, Plaintiff came upstairs from a lunch break and found his coworker had lost track of a small plane arriving from the east, while the controller was watching the NCAA basketball playoffs on a TV set. The aircraft overflew the Troutdale Airport and tried to land at Portland International Airport (PDX), ten miles to the west of Troutdale. As Plaintiff was walking up the stairs, he heard a controller at PDX shouting over a speaker, saying the airplane ‘damned near hit my Dash-8’. Plaintiff was deeply concerned about the fact this near-midair collision was related to TV-viewing, which everyone knew was improper. Plaintiff spoke up, telling his coworkers he realized he could not properly conceal any known facts from an investigation. Nothing was investigated.
- The reaction to Plaintiff’s speaking up was mostly neutral amongst his coworkers, but quite hostile from his manager, Mr. Mollinet. The glowing accolades from just weeks earlier, in the early March performance appraisal, were replaced with an enduring pattern of non-communication and isolation.
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- In June 1989, an official with the newly formed controllers union ‘NATCA’ sent letters to all Troutdale controllers, advising that although he lived and worked at a different FAA facility in Seattle, he was going to negotiate days off with the Troutdale manager. At the time, none of the seven Troutdale controllers cared to join the new union. Plaintiff drafted a letter, which all Troutdale controllers signed. The letter, which was mailed to the NATCA official, politely asked that he not intrude, and also asked that the union instead focus on career progression and other issues of importance to controllers at small towers.
- By September 1989, hostility from Plaintiff’s manager had intensified. In a semi-annual performance meeting, the manager advised Plaintiff that “…I could have you psychiatrically evaluated.” At around this same time, Plaintiff’s coworkers began advising him that the manager was interrogating them about Plaintiff. This ugly pattern persisted for years.
- In early 1991, not much had improved. During his annual performance meeting, Plaintiff asked if the psychiatric evaluation could still be set up. The manager confirmed it could, and Plaintiff asked the manager to go ahead and set up the evaluation, so Plaintiff could prove that the problem was the workplace.
- The evaluation was done in April 1991, with FAA paying all costs, including travel and overtime. The two medical professionals produced lengthy reports
 For more than a decade after the 1981 controller strike/firing, FAA tended to heavily overstaff smaller and slower ATC facilities. The apparent reason was that FAA wanted to annually report to Congress with numbers of fully-certified controllers showing strong progress in rebuilding the size of the controller workforce. Many controllers felt stuck, and quite bored, at these slow towers.
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emphasizing the personality conflict and Plaintiff’s mental fitness for duty. The reports were fully consistent with the recommendation made a year earlier, when the FAA Regional Flight Surgeon sent a memo to Plaintiff’s manager.
- In the week immediately following the psychiatric evaluation, Plaintiff was assaulted by his manager. Plaintiff then notified the FAA Administrator’s Hotline. An investigation was done, and Plaintiff’s request for reassignment to a different work location was accommodated.
- SALEM TOWER (1991-1994):
- In May 1991, Plaintiff began working at his second tower, in Salem, Oregon. He completed his OJT and fully certified five months later. Plaintiff worked at Salem until October 1994.
- During his years at Salem, Plaintiff continued his active outreach with pilots. This included assisting in the production of the Oregon Pilots Association’s bimonthly newsletter, for which Plaintiff wrote a regular ‘ATC’ column.
- Both controllers and local pilots were concerned about the tower contract program, so Plaintiff did independent journalistic research and wrote a series of articles. Plaintiff’s first article was published in the GA News and Flyer, in April 1994, and explained the tower contract bid process. Plaintiff received
The March 29, 1990 memo
from Dr. Christopher Taylor to John Mollinet confirmed Plaintiff’s medical fitness, then strongly recommended consultation with an FAA organizational development specialist to resolve the evident facility discord. Mr. Mollinet ignored this recommendation.
 Plaintiff and the tower manager, John Mollinet, were discussing the pay status and reimbursement related to the trip to Seattle for the evaluations. Mr. Mollinet became angry, leaned across his desk, slammed his fist into the palm of his hand just inches in front of Plaintiff’s nose (while Plaintiff was leaning backward), and stated with tightly clenched teeth: “I’d like to punch your face in!!”.
 Beginning in late 1994, the one hundred slowest FAA control towers were contracted out, and the controllers either retired or were reassigned to busier control towers. Salem was one of twenty-five towers contracted out in the first year.
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comments from various FAA managers, aimed at discouraging his freelance journalism work.
- PORTLAND TRACON (1994-1996):
- When the tower at Salem was contracted out, Plaintiff was reassigned to train at the much more complex Portland TRACON. Plaintiff was stationed at Portland TRACON for nearly sixteen months, beginning in October 1994.
- Plaintiff was washed out in his radar training ten months later. He was then offered the chance to change careers, and encouraged to apply for a job climbing tall antennas. After a few months of back-and-forth, Plaintiff was finally assigned to a tower in the Denver area, which he accepted under duress.
- JEFFCO TOWER (1996-1998):
- Plaintiff worked at the FAA control tower in Broomfield, CO from February 1996 until February 1998. He fully certified in early June 1996.
- Plaintiff again worked actively doing outreach with the local pilot community. He served as editor of a pilot group newsletter (at his home in Oregon); he created informational brochures for another pilot group (in Colorado); and, he made materials and taught a Boy Scout merit badge course in Aviation (in Colorado).
- During his two years at Jeffco, Plaintiff endured ongoing, abusive bullying from his union representative, Mike Lozinski. There were many incidents, some of which created unacceptable hazards to aviation safety. The FAA manager at the tower, Bob Super, took no action to stop the bullying behavior.
 Others were also washed out of training at Portland, but they were all invited to choose from a large list of towers, mostly in California, that were historically difficult to staff. Years later, Plaintiff ended up working at two of those towers in the Bay Area: Reid-Hillview in San Jose, CA, and Concord, CA.
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- In October 1997, Plaintiff was at home in Oregon for the birth of his third child, when he received a phone call from his co-worker, Allen Patterson. Mr. Patterson had been recently reassigned to Jeffco, and was training to certify as a controller. Mr. Patterson was also having difficulties with Mr. Lozinski’s bullying behavior. Mr. Patterson asked Plaintiff to prepare some notes. Plaintiff drafted a 14-page ‘Affidavit’, had it notarized, and provided a copy to Mr. Patterson.
- At about the same time, Plaintiff was approached by another FAA controller who was working at a tower in California and proposed a ‘swap’. Eventually, a swap was accomplished, with Plaintiff relocating to a tower in San Jose, CA.
- REID-HILLVIEW TOWER (1998-2000):
- Plaintiff worked at this tower in San Jose, CA, from February 1998 until April 2000. He fully certified in early July 1998.
- Plaintiff continued to do many extra duties related to aviation education.
- In May 1999, an actual mid-air collision occurred between a departing Cessna and a helicopter that was flying in a closed pattern. Both aircraft were able to return and land. A Supervisor had been working the two aircraft and failed to make proper traffic calls. That same Supervisor attempted to conceal the incident, which was never reported to the NTSB. Plaintiff and one other coworker (Don Hiebert) recognized that this was improper and made repeated efforts to get the collision investigated. NTSB was never involved, but an FAA
 This notarized ‘Affidavit’ provides a detailed summary of the work situation at Jeffco Tower, including the failure by FAA management to resolve the evident problems.
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investigation was eventually done. The San Jose Mercury News printed an article on January 24, 2000.
- OAKLAND CENTER (2000-2006):
- In April 2000, Plaintiff was selected on a bid, and promoted to work at Oakland Center. He began his new FAA job in Fremont, CA.
- Plaintiff certified to work oceanic traffic over sectors in the North Pacific. He was assigned hundreds of overnight shifts, and he was also offered more than a hundred overtime shifts, which he voluntarily accepted. During this time period, he was making weekly airline commutes to his home in Oregon, so as to be with his three young children. He began to become concerned that he was building chronic fatigue caused by the shift rotations, overnight shifts, and overtime shifts at Oakland Center. So, in June 2006, he withdrew from his radar training program and asked for an assignment to work his final years as a controller in a small tower. Plaintiff offered this training resignation fully expecting he would see his pay reduced by ten percent or so.
- At the time Plaintiff chose to resign from the Oakland Center radar training, relations between FAA management and the controllers union (NATCA) were extremely strained. Contract negotiations had collapsed, and Agency was imposing a new Contract, including a split payscale wherein new controllers earned substantially less than those controllers who hired on before the imposed Contract.
 Just a few months later, in late August 2006, a fatigued controller at Lexington failed to take action when a fatigued flightcrew took off from the wrong runway at Lexington, KY. The runway was too short, and the flight crashed, killing 49 people.
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- Plaintiff’s earlier FAA career had included full certification at four different small towers, including one close to Fremont, in San Jose. Due to high housing costs, there had always been a need for personnel to staff small towers in the Bay Area. Thus, Plaintiff reasonably expected a reassignment to a local tower in the Bay Area. Instead, Defendant arbitrarily restricted Plaintiff’s offer to one tower, at a remote location in eastern Idaho. Plaintiff challenged this offer. Defendant then offered a reassignment to the tower at Concord, CA with pay now set at a full ninety percent of his Oakland Center pay. Plaintiff accepted Defendant FAA’s last offer and reported for duty at Concord.
- At about the same time he withdrew from his radar training, Plaintiff had a discussion with Tom Lane, one of the FAA managers at Oakland Center. Plaintiff discussed his experience from years before, at Troutdale, and the repercussions when he spoke up. Plaintiff referred to this discussion about “…blowing the whistle on safety and fraud issues at Troutdale…” when he sent a memo to Mr. Lane on June 29, 2006. That memo was placed into Plaintiff’s file, and forwarded to the manager at Concord, when Plaintiff reassigned to Concord in October.
- CONCORD TOWER (2006-2009):
- On Monday, October 16, 2006, Plaintiff arrived at Concord Tower. He quickly certified on all sectors except Local Control, at twenty percent of the allotted training time. His Local Control training never began; due to a lack of traffic,
 And, this offer came with a severe pay reduction, a full 50% below Plaintiff’s pay at Oakland Center.
 The 6/29/06 memo with reference to blowing the whistle at Troutdale, was produced at pages 35-36 of Defendant FAA’s response to FOIA 2007-7547. This 10/26/07 FOIA response provided copies of “all additional documentation held by the Concord Tower manager.”
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that last training step was delayed. Then, on February 16, 2007, just four months after his arrival at Concord, he was locked out without explanation.
- During his brief four months working at Concord, Plaintiff spoke up or saw improprieties on numerous occasions:
- On January 14, 2007, Plaintiff spoke up in defense of a coworker, submitting a written memo to challenge accusations by the tower manager, Jason Ralph. Mr. Ralph had issued a letter to Plaintiff’s coworker, Andy Papageorge, accusing him of a loud, angry outburst, but the incident was not that at all. In fact, Mr. Papageorge was simply speaking up over the noise of a vacuum cleaner being used by the cleaning crew.
- Repeatedly, Plaintiff had also witnessed the use of personal laptop computers to watch DVD’s in the tower cab, by controllers officially assigned to work live air traffic. In one instance, Plaintiff observed a coworker viewing multiple episodes of the cartoon ‘Boondocks’, which had racial content with liberal use of terms such as ‘nigger’, ‘ho’, ‘bitch’, and other crude slang. Based on his past experiences, and because he was in training, Plaintiff chose to NOT speak up about this.
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BACKGROUND-2: Defendant FAA’s many
slanders and other actions leading to
Plaintiff’s improper removal, and Defendant
FAA’s subsequent concealment of records,
which impeded Plaintiff’s Due Process
- Plaintiff was Locked Out: On February 16, 2007, Plaintiff was arbitrarily locked out by his manager, Jason Ralph. Plaintiff remained locked out until November 6, 2008, when he was arbitrarily fired. During this long “lockout”, which continued for 21-months, Plaintiff made numerous written requests for an explanation. Defendant routinely ignored Plaintiff’s requests. As a prime example, see Plaintiff’s June 11, 2007 letter to Mr. Ralph. [ Exhibit-1 ]
- Two months after the start of the “lockout”, in mid-April 2007, Defendant FAA unilaterally placed Plaintiff into enforced leave, which caused Plaintiff to lose more than $40,000 in pay. The effect was to force Defendant to use up all of his accumulated sick leave and annual leave, and then proceed for more than a month in a no-pay status. These arbitrary actions by Defendant FAA were very problematic, as Plaintiff had a responsibility to provide for his three dependent children.
- On May 9, 2007, LR Specialist Dick Fossier sent an email to eleven FAA officials involved in Plaintiff’s case. Recipients included: Dr. Stephen Goodman (the AWP Regional Flight Surgeon), Teri Bristol (Western Service Area Terminal Operations Director), Barry Davis (Senior Advisor to Teri Bristol), Tony DiBernardo (former manager over Barry Davis at AWP, now working at LAX), Dennis Sullivan (District Manager for Bay Area towers), Jason Ralph (manager at Concord Tower, who had locked out Plaintiff on 2/16/07), Cindy Lopez-Hickson (AWP EAP manager, and author of the lock-out letter) and four others (Gwen Marshall, Dr. Stephen Roberts, Richard
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Giles, and James Austin). Mr. Fossier’s role was to advise on appropriate discipline. His email included this comment:
“…some of the issues I see is that with almost 20 years of Federal service, Lewis has no disciplinary record…so my suggestion is that if Aerospace Medicine opts to reinstate Lewis and return his medical, than LOB and 16 need to decide our next move…”
- Plaintiff filed his first Grievance: On May 23, 2007, Plaintiff filed a formal grievance, seeking to compel Defendant FAA to end the illegally imposed pay suspension.
- On June 7, 2007, a note signed by a Regional Flight Surgeon was inserted into Plaintiff’s confidential medical file. The note was highly slanderous, claiming plaintiff had a 17-year history of abusive behavior. There was nothing in the entire medical file to support this statement.
- On June 21, 2007, Defendant FAA attempted to medically retire Plaintiff, when FAA Regional Flight Surgeon Dr. Stephen Goodman permanently revoked Plaintiff’s ATC medical clearance. Plaintiff challenged, and eventually prevailed when his ATC medical clearance was fully restored by Dr. Goodman, on January 10, 2008.
- On July 6, 2007, Dr. Goodman sent an email to LR Specialist Dick Fossier, which read: “His file is on my desk if you need to see it. I will be out of the office from 7/9 thru 7/12.” Dr. Goodman was inviting illegal access to a confidential medical file, two weeks after he had medically disqualified Plaintiff, and one week after Plaintiff had made it clear he was challenging the disqualification. Mr. Fossier did not report this violation;
 LOB refers to “line-of-business”, meaning the air traffic officials (Teri Bristol, Barry Davis, Tony DiBernardo, Dennis Sullivan, and Jason Ralph); 16 refers to “AWP-16”, the Labor Relations and Employee Relations specialists (primarily Mr. Fossier) who assist and advise on disciplinary matters.
 Many years later, Defendant FAA eventually concurred that Plaintiff had been improperly ‘constructively suspended’, and agreed that all lost pay was to be converted to ‘paid Administrative Leave’.
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instead, he forwarded this email on to three Air Traffic officials: Dennis Sullivan, Barry Davis, and Jason Ralph.
- Defendant drafted an Admonishment Letter: On July 16, 2007, Jason Ralph created his first draft of a letter admonishing Plaintiff for alleged misconducts. That draft letter was repeatedly revised for two weeks, then issued.
- On July 27, 2007, District Manager Dennis Sullivan sent Plaintiff the final version of the letter of admonishment.
- On September 5, 2007, Mr. Fossier sent an email to Richard Giles, Barry Davis, Monique France, Jason Ralph and Andy Richards. It stated:
“…(plaintiff) was admonished for his use of the ‘racially offensive slurs.’ On the basis of this, we (HR and LOB) closed the Accountability Board case. Based on this, I would say it is OK to provide Lewis a copy of his redacted ROI….”
Mr. Giles ordered a copy of the 93-page ROI sent to Plaintiff , and it was received on October 10, 2007.
- In late September 2007, Plaintiff was returned to a full-pay status, retroactive to August 30th. He had been locked out for nearly 200-days, and had lost more than $40,000 in pay. From this date forward, Plaintiff remained in an Administrative Leave status, with Defendant FAA providing him full pay to stay at home and await a new plan. This situation continued until November 6, 2008, when Plaintiff was fired.
 Defendant repeatedly concealed this email; Plaintiff obtained a copy on 12/3/09, within the 201-page response package for FOIA #2009-0211.
 Richard Giles was Defendant FAA’s regional manager in charge of internal investigations for matters such as alleged employee misconduct. Barry Davis was a Senior Advisor, and Monique France was a Staffing Executive Advisor; both worked directly under Teri Bristol, the manager in charge of all Air Traffic terminal operations for the western third of the U.S. Andy Richards was the new District Manager, in charge of all ATC towers in the Bay Area, having replaced Dennis Sullivan in August.
 The ROI contained 24 Exhibits, including eight interviews under oath. Disclosure of this ROI revealed that the manager, Jason Ralph, made the only significant charges against Plaintiff, and none of these charges were substantiated by any agency records. Furthermore, it was later revealed that Defendant had excluded key (and exculpatory) records from the ROI.
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- On October 1, 2007, Jason Ralph sent an email to Jene Zullo, in Renton, WA. Ms. Zullo was processing Plaintiff’s FOIA request number 2007-7955. In his email, Mr. Ralph stated he had guidance from AWP-16 that “…there is no requirement to provide documents because there is no current proposed disciplinary action associated with his conduct….” Ms. Zullo replied clearly and firmly with an email that included:
“…under the requirements of the FOIA, all responsive records must be collected and reviewed. If an exemption can be appropriately applied, the information can be withheld. You and I will determine disclosure of the records in your files. … therefore, kindly collect the information requested in this request and we can review them and discuss their disposition….”
- Plaintiff rejected a Disability Retirement: On October 4, 2007, Plaintiff sent an email to Andy Richards rejecting Defendant’s offer of a disability retirement, because he was not eligible. Within this email, Plaintiff also asked Mr. Richards to confirm that FAA legal counsel was aware of the details of Plaintiff’s odd pay status. No confirmation was ever provided.
- On December 3, 2007, Barry Davis sent an email to Teri Bristol, which included this paragraph related to Plaintiff’s case:
“Jeff Lewis: Andy said that he will need to check with Medical, but Jeff had until November 30, 2007 to get his medical information in for review. This information is what is provided by the psychologist that he saw recently. Andy wants to propose discipline for the previous conduct issue that led to this, and to send him over to Santa Rosa ATCT. I told Andy that we may have an issue with the timeliness.”
- Plaintiff’s Medical Certification was fully restored: On January 10, 2008, Defendant FAA’s Regional Flight Surgeon, Dr. Stephen Goodman, fully restored Plaintiff’s ATC Medical Clearance. Dr. Goodman was the same Regional Flight Surgeon
 The response to this FOIA request was eventually provided via FOIA 2007-7547.
 In the next year, Defendant concealed this email from both FOIA and MSPB Discovery. Plaintiff obtained proof that Defendant had this email to share on 4/25/11, via FOIA #2011-0319 (2,528-pgs).
 Defendant also concealed this key email. Plaintiff obtained a copy on July 22, 2010, via FOIA #2010-5442 (34-pgs). The reassignment to the tower at Santa Rosa was never initiated.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 19
who six months earlier had permanently revoked Plaintiff’s ATC medical clearance, and then sent an email to other FAA officials inviting access to Plaintiff’s confidential medical file. With his ATC medical clearance fully restored, Plaintiff expected to hear from Air Traffic officials any day, to set up his return to work.
- On January 16, 2008, Plaintiff sent a letter to Dr. Goodman, thanking him for restoring his ATC medical clearance. Plaintiff also explained he wanted to clean up the misinformation in his medical files, and asked Dr. Goodman to provide documentation explaining (and correcting) the slanderous doctor-to-doctor memo. Dr. Goodman never responded to Plaintiff.
- Also on January 16, 2008, Teri Bristol sent an email to NATCA Regional Vice President Hamid Ghaffari, which stated: “Ham – did some checking. Looks like Mr. Lewis still owes management some info. No immediate plans for his return to work. Teri” Ms. Bristol was responding to an email from Mr. Ghaffari, in which he was investigating rumors that Plaintiff would be returning to work soon. In fact, Plaintiff owed no info to management. Management never asked Plaintiff for information, and drafted a 14-day suspension proposal in April. Then, in November, management fired Plaintiff.
- On January 29, 2008, Dr. Goodman sent an email to Andy Richards that said: “We are continuing to get letters from this individual. We are not going to respond. Please manage him and this issue.” In an email reply, Andy Richards advised, “I have not received any copies of the correspondence from your office…we are working this issue…
 NATCA is the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union with exclusive bargaining rights over ATC work conditions. ‘Ham’ Ghaffari is the lead union official for the Western Pacific Region, where Plaintiff worked. In 2006, NATCA and Defendant FAA became locked in a major impasse due to harsh work rules imposed by FAA. Then, in 2007, after FAA suspended Plaintiff and he exercised his right to file a formal grievance, NATCA became extremely hostile toward Plaintiff, and improperly withdrew Plaintiff’s grievance.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 20
internally and expect resolution in the near future.” Then, in a subsequent email, Dr. Goodman provided Andy Richards with copies of Plaintiff’s restored ATC medical clearance and Plaintiff’s ‘thank you’ letter sent on January 16, 2008.
- On April 5, 2008, AWP LR Specialist Dick Fossier sent an email to AWP LR Specialist Ros Marable. Ms. Marable was taking over the case, which Mr. Fossier had handled since early 2007. Within this email, Mr. Fossier stated that he had failed to complete processing of a disciplinary action against Plaintiff. Mr. Fossier was providing her with background information so that she could complete the process. Many of Mr. Fossier’s “facts” were actually grossly damaging misrepresentations. He claimed that Lewis had been AWOL. Also in this email, Mr. Fossier had a line that reads: “This ‘Slime Ball’ has been with the Agency for 20 plus years and has never certified at a facility.” These very substantial slanders were not revealed to Plaintiff until November 2011, and two key lines remain improperly redacted. A previous civil action generated a Vaughn Index and review by a Magistrate Judge, which confirmed that the redacted lines indicated a disciplinary intent different from the eventual firing.
 Defendant concealed this email; Plaintiff obtained it on 11/5/11, via FOIA 2011-9148 (2-pgs). An Appeal copy received by Plaintiff on February 5, 2012 revealed two more sentences. Approximately two lines remain redacted, citing FOIA Exemption #5.
 Curiously, this statement by Mr. Fossier fully contradicts his September 5, 2007 email to Richard Giles, in which he assures Plaintiff had been admonished, and the Accountability Board case had been closed. Plaintiff believes that Defendant FAA is continuing to hide records that will help establish the damaging and erroneous statements made within Mr. Fossier’s April 5, 2008 email.
 Plaintiff was never AWOL (Absent Without Leave) in his entire 22-year FAA ATC career.
 Plaintiff was fully certified for most of his FAA career, and at four different FAA towers.
 The case number for that civil action at the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR is 3:11-CV-01458-AC. The Vaughn Index is included within Defendant FAA’s ‘Declaration of Jeb Kreischer’, CR 30 Ex.8 at p.3. The Magistrate Judge (John Acosta) confirmed the Vaughn Index within his 1/7/13 ‘Opinion & Order’, CR 47 at p.14-15.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 21
- Defendant drafted a 14-day Suspension: Other agency records obtained via FOIA reveal that, on April 17, 2008, Ms. Marable drafted a 5-page letter proposing to suspend Plaintiff for 14-days, and emailed a copy to District Manager Andy Richards.
- On this same date, LR Specialist Glen Rotella sent an email to Mr. Richards. Mr. Rotella advised that he was discussing settlement of an Unfair Labor Practice filed by Plaintiff in November 2007. Responding to Mr. Rotella’s email, Mr. Richards mailed a certified letter to Plaintiff, confirming Plaintiff was on paid leave and further advising “…a return to work plan will be discussed with you.”
Paragaphs 46 through 50 are the heart of the retaliation. As soon as Plaintiff filed a grievance to be returned to work and paid $40K+ for the illegal constructive suspension, Defendant FAA initiated paperwork to fire him … based on unsubstantiated slanders (mostly by Jason Ralph) more than a year old. Ever since, Defendant FAA has been violating FOIA to avoid releasing records that prove this improper action.
- Plaintiff filed a new Grievance…: During discussions with Plaintiff, Mr. Rotella had agreed to waive timeliness so that Plaintiff could file a grievance seeking reimbursement on the leave enforced by agency from April through September 2007. In fulfillment of Mr. Rotella’s offered Settlement, Plaintiff withdrew his Unfair Labor Practice and filed a new grievance on May 1, 2008.
- …On May 7, 2008, Mr. Rotella forwarded copies of Plaintiff’s new grievance to Mr. Richards and others…
- …and Defendant retaliated, with a Removal Proposal: The first agency draft removal letter, proposing to fire Plaintiff, was not created until May 15, 2008. It is first referenced in an email from that afternoon. This was fifteen-months after Plaintiff had been locked out, but just one week after the new grievance was shared with Andy Richards and other officials.
- Concurrence to proceed with the removal proposal letter was provided by Monique France (Executive Staff Advisor, Western Service Area Terminal Operations) in an email
 Defendant concealed this email; Plaintiff obtained it on 4/25/11, via FOIA 2011-0319 (2,528-pgs).
 Defendant concealed this email; Plaintiff obtained it on 4/25/11, via FOIA 2011-0319 (2,528-pgs).
 Defendant concealed this email; Plaintiff obtained it on 9/27/10, via FOIA 2010-3984 (262-pgs).
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 22
sent to Ros Marable on June 30, 2008.  For eight months leading up to this concurrence, Ms. France had received biweekly Terminal Reports which misrepresented Plaintiff as AWOL and pending a medical revocation. In fact, Plaintiff was never AWOL in his entire FAA career, and his ATC medical clearance was fully restored five months before Ms. France concurred.
- On July 8, 2008, AWP attorney Don Bobertz emailed LR Specialist Ros Marable, advising he would “…grid off on the letter…” if she fixed a few typos he had marked. 
- On July 16, 2008, Plaintiff received a FedEx-overnighted package with a six-page letter, dated July 15, 2008, and signed by District Manager Andy Richards. The letter proposed Plaintiff’s removal. This was three months after Andy Richards’ 4/17/08 letter, which had stated, in part, “…a return to work plan will be discussed with you at a later date….”
- On July 17, 2008, LR Specialist Glen Rotella sent an email to the two top NATCA officials, Hamid Ghaffari and Mike Hull, which included: 
“…I know there are some understandable differences between you guys however, if ever there were someone in need of representation and your professional advice, it is Mr. Lewis. He has been on administrative leave for way over a year with almost no communication from the Agency. Now he receives a proposed removal based on stuff that occurred more than a year and a half ago….”
Mr. Ghaffari and Mr. Hull (the NATCA-Union officials) did nothing.
- On October 6, 2008, Acting District Manager Mark DePlasco sent an email to Ros Marable, with a copy of his completed Douglas Factors regarding Plaintiff.  On Factor #12, in response to a question asking what lesser sanctions had been considered and why
 Defendant concealed this email; Plaintiff obtained it on 12/3/09, via FOIA 2009-0211 (201-pgs).
 Defendant concealed this email; Plaintiff obtained it on 11/7/11, via the Appeal response to FOIA 2011-4258 (7-pgs). One line remains redacted, citing FOIA Exemption #5.
 Plaintiff received this email on 1/27/11 via FOIA 2011-0273 (254-pgs).
 Defendant concealed this email; Plaintiff obtained it on 1/15/11, via FOIA 2011-0272 (168-pgs).
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 23
they were rejected, Mr. DePlasco stated only: “Mr. Lewis was asked to consider a medical retirement but he refused.”
- Defendant fired Plaintiff on November 6, 2008. The timing of this firing was six-months prior to Plaintiff becoming eligible to retire. As such, Defendant’s action essentially stripped Plaintiff of his right to voluntarily retire and collect the retirement pension he had earned in his 22-year career.
- The seven-page removal decision letter invited Plaintiff to appeal via one of three options: he could file a grievance with the Union, he could use FAA’s “Guaranteed Fair Treatment” process, or he could file an Appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
- Plaintiff chose to file an Appeal with MSPB. Discovery was initiated, but Defendant, represented by Defendant FAA’s AWP attorneys Naomi Tsuda and Donald Bobertz, first delayed production of Agency records, then withheld numerous key disclosable records citing Privacy and/or legal privileges. Most of these key records were disclosed years later, via FOIA and Privacy Act requests, which revealed the extent to which Defendant’s Counsel improperly withheld disclosable records.
- An MSPB Hearing was scheduled for March 4, 2009. During the run-up to the hearing, Defendant’s Counsel repeatedly offered Plaintiff a disability retirement, just as they had done in 2007. However, there existed no medical records to support Defendant’s offer, and Plaintiff continued to be ineligible for a disability retirement. Although the disability retirement package would have been financially advantageous, Plaintiff declined the offer, as he did not want to be involved in Defendant’s fraudulent scheme to misuse Public funds.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 24
- Defendant FAA’s Counsel (Ms. Tsuda) repeatedly slandered Plaintiff in the pre-hearing conferences leading up to the MSPB Hearing date.
- In a February 20, 2009 email, Counselor Tsuda apprised FAA officials that:
“…we have made the AJ aware of our significant security concerns, and he says the MSPB is amply prepared to ensure security, and will do so.”
- In a February 24, 2009 email, Counselor Tsuda again apprised FAA officials of her pre-hearing conferences with the MSPB. She said:
“…due to security and safety concerns, I am working on getting a courtroom in San Francisco that will have a fully-operational metal detector and armed US Marshals available. The MSPB courtroom is on the smaller side, and I am hopeful that I will be able to make arrangements at a larger, more comfortable venue.”
- Although Plaintiff had invested a considerable effort into carefully following the procedures for his MSPB hearing, that process was thwarted by Defendant FAA. Specifically, all key records that should have been produced via MSPB Discovery, were concealed. Subsequent FOIA requests indicate that some records were concealed at the source (not provided to Counsel), while other records were provided by the source to Counsel, but were then secretly removed by Defendant FAA’s Counsel.
- The MSPB Hearing convened on March 4, 2009, at a courtroom in San Francisco, but the hearing never actually began. An alternate MSPB Administrative Judge (“AJ”) was substituted on the last day. Upon entering the courtroom, and prior to opening the Hearing, the substitute MSPB AJ asked a few questions. Defendant’s lead Counsel, Naomi Tsuda, falsely declared that Plaintiff had not been previously admonished. The AJ then noted her observation that Plaintiff was just two months shy of retirement eligibility. Counselor Tsuda confirmed that their last offer to Plaintiff had been a “settlement” in
 Most importantly, there is nothing in Plaintiff’s life history to warrant Counselor Tsuda’s claim that armed guards and metal detectors were needed at the scheduled hearing.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 25
which Plaintiff would be allowed to collect his earned retirement pension, so long as he submitted papers “voluntarily” retiring. The substitute AJ then encouraged Plaintiff and his counsel to step outside the courtroom to discuss settlement one more time. At this time, Defendant had concealed all key agency records from Plaintiff; neither Plaintiff nor the MSPB AJ were aware of any of the extensive slanders, lesser disciplinary actions, and improper agency coordination that resulted in his firing. Also at this time, Plaintiff had gone four months with no job and no pay. Plaintiff had responsibilities to provide financially for his family, and thus reasonably felt he had no choice but to submit to the offered settlement.
- Absent these discriminatory actions by Defendant, Plaintiff would still be employed as an air traffic controller, with the intention to retire in his late-fifties, between 2015 and 2020. This privilege of continued employment and true voluntary retirement was wrongfully taken from Plaintiff, yet is being exercised by all of Plaintiff’s former coworkers.
- A detailed chronology of Plaintiff’s FAA work experience and Defendant FAA’s retaliation against Plaintiff is viewable online. It includes links to PDF copies, and is viewable at:
FACTS: Advocacy for Transparency and
Openness in FOIA, as articulated
by President Obama, Attorney
General Holder, and DoT Deputy
General Counsel Knapp
- On January 21, 2009 President Barack Obama issued an Executive Memo
[ Exhibit-2 ] declaring (in part) the following policy:
“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information…”
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 26
“…confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. . . . All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.”
- On March 19, 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reinforced the President’s statement with the issuance of his memo regarding FOIA. [ Exhibit-3 ] He rescinded the Ashcroft memo of 2001. More importantly, while also advocating for an open and transparent government, Holder put Federal officials on notice that Department of Justice lawyers would not defend a denial of a FOIA request unless the agency was able to clearly justify a statutory basis for the records withholding.
- On November 2, 2009, Rosalind Knapp, Deputy General Counsel for the Department of Transportation (and DoT Chief FOIA Officer at that time), issued yet another memo regarding FOIA. [ Exhibit-4 ] She emphasized the same “new era of Open Government” points made in the Obama and Holder memos.
- It appears that all these high-level officials are in agreement, advocating for a philosophy of open government, accountability, transparency, and maximum records disclosure. Thus, the improper withholding of records at the heart of this complaint is occurring solely within FAA’s organization, and counter to the intent of the President, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Transportation.
- This appearance was reinforced quite recently. On July 2, 2013, ‘Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, President Obama’s FOIA Memorandum and Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Guidelines’ was posted at the DoJ webpage:
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 27
The posting unambiguously reaffirms the Executive Branch’s “commitment to accountability and transparency.”
- Claim-I, as originally filed by Plaintiff, charges that Defendant FAA has a pattern and practice of excessive application of FOIA exemptions, to improperly conceal disclosable records. This charge asserts that Defendant FAA mis-applied FOIA Exemption #2 and/or FOIA Exemption #6 and/or FOIA Exemption #7 in each of the following nine (9) FOIA Appeals: FOIA #2010-8248; FOIA #2011-1765; FOIA #2011-2164; FOIA #2011-2330; FOIA #2011-2662; FOIA #2011-4047; FOIA #2011-8134; FOIA #2012-7031; and, FOIA #2013-1654. Further details of each of these eight FOIA non-compliances by Defendant FAA are presented in the paragraphs below (paragraphs numbered 72 through 80).
- 5 U.S.C § 552(b) declares a list of nine ‘exemptions’ which allow Agencies to deny disclosure of records requested under FOIA. At issue in this Claim are FOIA Exemptions #2, #6, and #7. FOIA Exemption #2 exempts records “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.” FOIA Exemption #6 exempts “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” FOIA Exemption #7 generally exempts
 In the Complaint filed on June 14, 2013, two of these ten FOIA Appeals were inadvertently mis-numbered. The erroneous numbers are FOIA #2011-6573 and FOIA #2013-4641; the correct numbers are FOIA #2012-6573 and FOIA #2013-1654. Also, in the Complaint filed on June 14, 2013, FOIA #2012-7031 was listed under Claim-II, but is more accurately listed under Claim-I; and, FOIA #2012-6573 was listed under Claim-I, but is more accurately listed under Claim-II.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 28
“records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes,” with numerous limitations to the application of this exemption.
- As regards Defendant FAA’s chronic misapplication of FOIA Exemption #2, the Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion in Milner v. Department of the Navy in 2011. The Department of Justice (“DoJ”) guidelines are posted at:
These guidelines include a three-part test to ensure proper application of FOIA Exemption #2. The Milner test includes:
• The Information Must be Related to “Personnel” Rules and Practices;
• The Information Must Relate “Solely” to Those Personnel Rules and Practices
• The Information Must be “Internal”.
- As regards Defendant FAA’s chronic misapplication of FOIA Exemption #6, the DoJ guidelines are posted at:
- As regards Defendant FAA’s chronic misapplication of FOIA Exemption #7, the DoJ guidelines are posted at:
- FOIA #2010-8248:
- This FOIA request was originally filed on September 8, 2010. Plaintiff used previously received FOIA records to prepare a Table identifying twelve (12)
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 29
disciplinary cases, ranging from a 3-day suspension to a few removals. The FOIA request sought copies of specified records for each disciplinary case.
- Defendant FAA responded with an October 18, 2010 letter signed by FAA’s Western Pacific Regional Administrator, William Withycombe. The letter was a ‘full denial’ of the FOIA request, citing FOIA Exemptions #2 and #6.
- Plaintiff sent a letter of Appeal, dated November 12, 2010. Plaintiff’s Appeal declared that FOIA Exemption #2 was not applicable, that FOIA Exemption #6 was misapplied, and that FAA’s FOIA Order (Order 1270.1) compelled use of data segregation so as “…to make information available to the public to the greatest extent possible in keeping with the spirit of the statute….”
- Eight months later (and thus far beyond the FOIA Appeal response time limits), a July 15, 2011 letter signed by Melanie Yohe at FAA Headquarters advised the FOIA Appeal had been remanded back to the FAA Regional Office in Los Angeles (under Mr. Withycombe).
- On October 14, 2011, Mr. Withycombe sent a remand response to the original FOIA request, containing a 2-page cover letter and 619-pages of FAA records. Many redactions were made, citing FOIA Exemption #6.
- Plaintiff filed an Appeal [ Exhibit-5 ] to the remand response on November 8, 2011. It included:
“…this is a very straight-forward Appeal. FOIA Exemption #6 was excessively applied to overly redact the copies provided in the response package. For this appeal, I request the entire file be reviewed and all copies be again provided, without redactions….” (and) “…there is clearly no Personal Privacy…”
 Please note that, Plaintiff had to construct this Table using case ‘details’, but without the efficiency of simply identifying the case numbers. Such clearly disclosable details were routinely redacted by Defendant FAA, with the apparent intent being to obstruct citizen access to information.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 30
“…Information contained in facility names, manager names/titles, docket numbers, records sources, hearing locations and case numbers….”
- Nineteen-months later, on May 10, 2013, a letter signed by Victoria Wassmer (FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management) denied Plaintiff’s FOIA Appeal. [ Exhibit-6 ] Ms. Wassmer cited FOIA Exemption #6, and also added FOIA Exemption #7(c).
- SUMMARY & RESOLUTION: Defendant FAA has failed to comply with the timelines specified within 5 U.S.C § 552, and has mis-applied FOIA Exemptions #2, #6, and #7 at different stages of their FOIA denial responses. Had Defendant FAA been timely in this FOIA Appeal response (and with Plaintiff generously adding an additional month for the Appeal-Remand action), the Appeal denial letter for FOIA #2010-8248 would have been mailed 26-months earlier, in January 2011. To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted within the 621-page remand response.
- FOIA #2011-1765:
- This FOIA request was originally filed on December 9, 2010. The FOIA request sought printouts of all Administrator Hotline (AHIS) complaints filed between 8/1/06 and 3/1/07 at all FAA ATCT facilities in the state of California.
- Defendant FAA responded with a January 13, 2011 letter signed by the Director of Audit & Evaluation, Clay Foushee. Twenty-three records had been located, and twenty of these records (totaling 60-pages) were provided. Most
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 31
of the 60-pages produced included numerous spot redactions. Defendant FAA cited FOIA Exemption #6 and chose to redact geographic locations, names/titles of FAA officials, and all references to gender. Three of the twenty-three records were fully redacted.
- Plaintiff sent a letter of Appeal, [ Exhibit-7 ] dated January 20, 2011. Plaintiff’s Appeal discussed the language in 5 U.S.C § 552, regarding FOIA Exemption #6. The Appeal requested proper segregation of data and the release of all pages, re-processed in accordance with proper FOIA redaction standards.
- Twenty-six months later, on May 10, 2013, a letter signed by Victoria Wassmer (FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management), responded to the Appeal. [ Exhibit-8 ] Gender information was revealed, but all other partial redactions and the 7-pages fully-redacted were sustained. Ms. Wassmer cited FOIA Exemption #6, and also added FOIA Exemption #7(c).
- The three full-page redactions are all extremely relevant to Plaintiff’s case, as all three present Administrator Hotline printouts for misconduct allegations by a coworker at Plaintiff’s FAA facility, the tower at Concord, CA. Plaintiff has a strong personal interest in the release of these three printouts, as they will establish disparate disciplinary treatment of Plaintiff by the Defendant FAA. There is a larger Public interest in disclosure, so that the Public can evaluate whether FAA is objective or arbitrary in their handling of alleged misconducts.
 The three full-page redactions are the AHIS Reports alleging misconducts by Plaintiff’s coworker, as filed on 10/23/06, 11/14/06, and 11/21/06.
 Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s coworker were both disciplined for very similar alleged misconducts. Plaintiff had no misconduct history in his career of more than twenty years, while Plaintiff’s coworker had a misconduct history and had been issued previous suspensions. The three fully-redacted AHIS printouts detail the reason Agency issued a 30-day suspension to Plaintiff’s coworker; Plaintiff, on the other hand, was fired.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 32
- SUMMARY & RESOLUTION: Defendant FAA has failed to comply with the timelines specified within 5 U.S.C § 552, and has mis-applied FOIA Exemptions #6 and #7, at different stages of their FOIA denial responses. Had Defendant FAA been timely in this FOIA Appeal response, the Appeal denial letter for FOIA #2011-1765 would have been mailed 26-months earlier, in March 2011. To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted, and unredacted copies of the three AHIS Reports that were fully redacted. A full resolution would require production of roughly 65-pages.
- FOIA #2011-2164:
- This FOIA request was originally filed on December 29, 2010. The FOIA request letter clearly specified four disciplinary cases, then requested specified key records that FAA officials would have produced in deciding and issuing disciplinary actions for each case.
- Defendant FAA responded in multiple parts.
- The first response was a January 19, 2011 letter signed by the Regional Administrator at FAA’s Western Pacific Region, Mr. William Withycombe; this letter cited FOIA Exemption #6 as a basis for not releasing Reports of Investigation (ROI’s).
- The second response was a February 1, 2011 letter, also signed by Mr. Withycombe; this letter declared the non-existence of specified records,
 Plaintiff had not requested entire ROI’s, but had requested specified records normally contained within ROI’s created by FAA Security personnel.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 33
and also cited FOIA Exemption #6 for the redaction of Notification of Personnel Action forms (SF-50’s).
- Plaintiff sent a letter of Appeal, [ Exhibit-9 ] dated February 14, 2011. Plaintiff’s Appeal presented information obtained from other FOIA responses, all of which indicated serious factual irregularities in the FOIA response letters. Plaintiff discussed the the apparent misuse of FOIA Exemption #6 to shield FAA officials from accountability. The Appeal requested proper segregation of data and release of all pages, re-processed in accordance with proper FOIA redaction standards.
- Twenty-eight months later, on June 3, 2013, a letter signed by Victoria Wassmer (FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management), responded to the Appeal. [ Exhibit-10 ] All redactions were sustained, with one exception: a copy of the SF-50 for the manager fired at Northern California TRACON (NCT) was provided, with partial redactions and citing FOIA Exemption #6.
- The June 3, 2013 Appeal response included declarations about the NCT manager case that are contradicted by other FAA records. The fired NCT manager filed an Appeal at MSPB, which generated a substantial collection of records. Defendant FAA’s response declared that no ROI had been produced, yet a copy of FAA’s Narrative Response for the MSPB filing states that “…an investigation was conducted by the Security and Hazardous Materials Division…” and
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 34
“…the investigation revealed that the appellant had either failed to report for duty or….”
- As such, it appears that Defendant FAA is misrepresenting the facts, so as to avoid having to disclose these disclosable records.
- SUMMARY & RESOLUTION: Defendant FAA has failed to comply with the timelines specified within 5 U.S.C § 552, and has mis-applied FOIA Exemptions #6 and #7, at different stages of their FOIA denial responses. Had Defendant FAA been timely in this FOIA Appeal response, the Appeal denial letter for FOIA #2011-2164 would have been mailed 27-months earlier, in March 2011. Additionally, the belated Appeal response failed to address the nonsensical content of the original FOIA response, as challenged in the Appeal letter. Also, to fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted, and unredacted copies of the three AHIS Reports that were fully redacted. A full resolution would require production of an estimated 30-pages total.
- FOIA #2011-2330:
- This FOIA request was originally filed on December 29, 2010. The FOIA request sought entire printouts for all Accountability Board cases reported to the Accountability Board between 1/1/06 and 12/31/10, for which Teri Bristol, Kathryn Vernon, Mark Reeves or any other WSA official was listed as the ‘Accountable Official’.
 For example, the Appeal had noted that the original FOIA Response letter cited 5 CFR § 293.311(a), as a basis for withholding information; however, 5 CFR § 293.311(a) does not declare content withholding criteria.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 35
- Defendant FAA responded with a November 9, 2011 letter signed by the Acting Assistant Administrator for Human Resources Management, Tina Amereihn. Most of the 97-pages produced were excessively redacted, citing FOIA Exemption #6.
- Plaintiff sent a letter of Appeal, [ Exhibit-11 ] dated November 28, 2011. Plaintiff’s Appeal presented a factual chronology of the correspondence for this FOIA request, and also discussed the excessive redactions. Plaintiff attached an example, AB Case #2009-0147, in which excessive redactions concealed gender, location and other disclosable details for a case in which a heated discussion caused one air traffic employee to angrily yell at another with a series of cuss words. The Appeal requested prompt release of all pages, re-processed in accordance with proper FOIA redaction standards.
- Sixteen months later, on March 13, 2013, a letter signed by Victoria Wassmer (FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management), responded to the Appeal. [ Exhibit-12 ] Gender information was revealed, but all other partial redactions were sustained. Ms. Wassmer cited FOIA Exemption #6, and also added FOIA Exemption #7(c).
- SUMMARY & RESOLUTION: Defendant FAA has failed to comply with the timelines specified within 5 U.S.C § 552, and has mis-applied FOIA Exemptions #6 and #7, at different stages of their FOIA denial responses. Had Defendant FAA been timely in this FOIA Appeal response, the Appeal denial letter for FOIA #2011-2330 would have been mailed 13-months earlier,
 All names, titles, facilities, gender pronouns, control positions, and many key details were blacked out.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 36
in February 2012. To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted. A full resolution would require production of roughly 99-pages.
- FOIA #2011-2662:
- This FOIA request was originally filed on January 18, 2011. The FOIA request sought printouts of all Administrator Hotline (AHIS) complaints filed after January 1, 2004, for five specified California towers.
- Defendant FAA responded with an April 18, 2011 letter signed by the Director of Audit & Evaluation, Clay Foushee. Mr. Foushee’s letter advised that a search had been conducted on February 10, 2011, and 93 ‘records’ were revealed. This FOIA Response provided 70-pages of those 93 records. Four records were declared fully withheld, citing FOIA Exemption #6. Most of the 60-pages produced included numerous spot redactions of locations, official titles, genders and names.
- Plaintiff sent a letter of Appeal, [ Exhibit-13 ] dated May 15, 2011. Plaintiff’s Appeal discussed the language in 5 U.S.C § 552, regarding FOIA Exemption #6. Plaintiff also discussed reasonable strategies for producing minimally redacted information, as well as some FOIA history. The Appeal requested proper segregation of data and the release of all pages, re-processed in accordance with proper FOIA redaction standards.
 The five towers were Concord (CCR), Napa County (APC), Reid-Hillview (RHV), San Jose (SJC), and San Francisco (SFO). In the FOIA Response, Defendant FAA declared there were no records at APC or RHV.
 The four ‘records’ were declared fully withheld, but no further details were offered. Defendant FAA did NOT provide a Vaughn Index or other info to generally describe these withheld records.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 37
- Twenty-four-months later, on May 10, 2013, a letter signed by Victoria Wassmer (FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management) denied Plaintiff’s FOIA Appeal. [ Exhibit-14 ] Ms. Wassmer cited FOIA Exemption #6, and also added FOIA Exemption #7(c).
- SUMMARY & RESOLUTION: Defendant FAA has failed to comply with the timelines specified within 5 U.S.C § 552, and has mis-applied FOIA Exemption #6. Had Defendant FAA been timely in this FOIA response, the Appeal response letter for FOIA #2011-2662 would have been mailed 27-months ago, in April 2011. To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted. A full resolution would require production of roughly 80-pages.
- FOIA #2011-4047:
- This FOIA request was originally filed on March 8, 2011. [ Exhibit-15 ] The FOIA request sought copies from all AWP Terminal Reports (and associated emails for their distribution), as produced from 10/1/07 through
 The letter carefully explained that this new FOIA Request was necessitated by FAA’s failure to produce records for a recent Privacy Act request. The letter also noted that the records were critically needed, to show the full eight month history where AWP-16 slandered Plaintiff as ‘AWOL’ and ‘pending medical revocation’ in official reports. Those bi-weekly reports were used by Monique France and Barry Davis to monitor disciplinary cases, and to guide the LR specialists in disciplinary proposals, such as Plaintiff’s eventual firing.
 The AWP Terminal Report was a biweekly spreadsheet summary of all tower/terminal conduct & discipline cases, grievances, and other items. It was updated by the Labor Relations & Employee Relations staff (AWP-16), at FAA’s Western Pacific Region office in Los Angeles. Copies were routinely emailed to the Western Service Area office in Renton, WA, where the contents were reviewed by Director of Terminal Operations. Key people in that office, related to Plaintiff’s disciplinary case, were Teri Bristol (Director, late 2006 until early 2008), Kathryn Vernon (Director, from early 2008 into 2009), Monique France (Executive Advisor), and Barry Davis (Senior Advisor).
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 38
6/1/09. The FOIA request included three attachments to clearly illustrate the records Defendant FAA needed to produce.
- Defendant FAA delayed for fifteen months, then responded with a May 22, 2012 letter signed by FAA’s Western Pacific Regional Administrator, William Withycombe. The response included a 2-page letter and 88-pages of records, partially redacted citing FOIA Exemption #6. A careful review of the records showed many deficiencies, including records that were clearly missing, and many other records, which were marked with significantly incorrect dates.
- Plaintiff sent a letter of Appeal, [ Exhibit-16 ] dated June 4, 2012. This was a very detailed Appeal letter, including a 9-page letter and 16-pages of Exhibits. Plaintiff performed a thorough review of what he had learned from thousands of pages of records (mostly from various FOIA responses) received after May 2009.
- At pages 2-8 of his Appeal letter, Plaintiff presented a detailed chronology, showing the series of slanders, deceptions, and medical records confidentiality violations, as revealed by FAA records.
- At pages 8-9 of his Appeal letter, Plaintiff specified seven FOIA Response deficiencies. Most of these identify evidence that a specific record was incorrectly dated; a few also identify evidence that Defendant FAA has not yet produced key records.
 The dates on these records were critically important. As stated in the original FOIA request, the objective was to procure FAA records that would yield a clear timeline showing all occurrences of the ‘AWOL’ and ‘pending medical revocation’ slanders in the eight months leading up to the decision to fire Plaintiff. FAA records with incorrect dates deny Plaintiff the opportunity to produce a definitive record, as needed for his defense.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 39
- At page 9 of his Appeal letter, Plaintiff provided a concise list of the records needed to properly respond to the Appeal.
- The 16-pages of Appeal Exhibits highlighted the extraordinary inconsistencies between FAA records and the eventual FAA action.
- Three months later, on September 14, 2012, a letter signed by Victoria Wassmer (FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management), responded to the Appeal. [ Exhibit-17 ] Ms. Wassmer’s letter simply restated the correspondence history for FOIA 2011-4047, and made broad declarations of her belief that FAA had not failed in their FOIA response. However, there was no substantial response to the many specific deficiencies clearly identified within Plaintiff’s Appeal letter.
- SUMMARY & RESOLUTION: In the handling of this particular FOIA request, Defendant FAA has failed to correct numerous substantial deficiencies, which caused delays and resulted in the incorrect labeling of FAA emails and AWP Terminal Reports. It appears that the root of the problem was NOT the production of records at the source, but the mishandling of those records during a prolonged ‘redaction process’. That is to say, errors likely occurred during the protracted FOIA response processing at FAA’s Western
 For example, Exhibit ‘B’ has LR Specialist Dick Fossier proposing an admonishment on 7/14/07; Exhibit ‘C’ has LR Specialist Dick Fossier emailing others on 9/5/07, and reporting that Plaintiff had been admonished; Exhibit ‘H’ shows a 12/3/07 email in which Barry Davis is advising Teri Bristol that Andy Richards wants to reassign Plaintiff to work as a controller at the tower in Santa Rosa, CA; Exhibit ‘D’ shows Plaintiff’s medical clearance was fully restored by Dr. Stephen Goodman on 1/10/08 (yet, the AWP Terminal Reports declared Plaintiff as ‘AWOL’ and ‘pending medical revocation’ for five more months); Exhibit ‘E’ shows a 4/5/08 email by LR Specialist Dick Fossier, calling Plaintiff a ‘Slime Ball’ and telling LR Specialist Ros Marable that Plaintiff has never certified in 20 years of ATC work; Exhibit ‘G’ shows District Manager Andy Richards advising Plaintiff via a 4/17/08 certified letter that “…a return to work plan will be discussed…;” and, Exhibit ‘J’ shows Acting District Manager Mark DePlasco explaining in his 10/6/08 Douglas Factors checklist that the reason Plaintiff had to be fired was that he “…was asked to consider a medical retirement but he refused….”
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 40
Pacific Regional Office, Human Resources Division. The person responsible for reviewing/redacting these records was Ms. Deidra Mitchell, but the person who then had to review and approve her work was the Director at the Human Resources Division, Mr. Tim Kubik. It is clearly evident that Mr. Kubik knowingly impeded the production of records to Plaintiff in dozens of other FOIA requests. The records sought via FOIA #2011-4047 expose Mr. Kubik’s failure to manage his subordinate employees, and to ensure the quality and accuracy of their work. Mr. Kubik’s failure enabled the production of eight months of inaccurate and slanderous AWP Terminal Reports, from October 2007 until June 2008, in which Paintiff was characterized as ‘AWOL’ and ‘pending medical revocation’. Mr. Kubik was clearly motivated to hide key FAA records, and thus would improperly reject the FOIA-processing work of his employee, Ms. Deidra Mitchell, causing substantial delay and compelling her to overly redact or even remove responsive records. To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted, and all pages identified as ‘missing’ in the Appeal. A full resolution would require production of roughly 130-pages.
- FOIA #2011-8134:
- This FOIA request was originally filed on July 31, 2011. The FOIA request provided an excerpt from an April 18, 2011 FAA Press
 …Evidence of Mr. Kubik’s obstruction of Plaintiff’s access to records is revealed in dozens of FOIA responses, and also in Privacy Act and MSPB Discovery requests.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 41
Release, about a controller and a supervisor who had been suspended in a high-profile incident at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center (“Cleveland Center”). The FOIA request sought “…entire unredacted copies of all investigative records, all letters proposing discipline, and all letters implementing the final disciplinary decision.”
- Defendant FAA responded in two parts:
- The Central Service Area mailed a November 9, 2011 letter, signed by FAA’s Southwest Regional Administrator, Teresa Bruner. The 2-page letter included 75-pages of attached responsive records. Some records were partially redacted, citing FOIA Exemption #6.
- The Office of Human Resource Management at FAA Headquarters mailed a November 22, 2011 letter, signed by Acting Executive Director, Office of Employee and Labor Relations, John McFall. The 2-page letter included 43-pages of attached responsive records. Some records were partially redacted, citing FOIA Exemption #6.
- Plaintiff sent a letter of Appeal, [ Exhibit-18 ] dated December 23, 2011. Plaintiff’s Appeal identified defects in the FOIA response, including the absence of disciplinary drafts and final actions. Plaintiff also emphasized the need to comply with the Appeal response deadline.
- Seventeen months later, on June 3, 2013, a letter signed by Victoria Wassmer (FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management), responded to
 The incident was a major news story. The controller was on position for an overnight shift. He had a hot microphone while working airplanes and simultaneously watching a movie DVD on his laptop computer. A ham radio operator discovered the noise, assumed it was radio interference, and innocently called the problem in to FAA, thinking he was helping to correct a radio interference hazard.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 42
the Appeal. [ Exhibit-19 ] Ms. Wassmer concurred with some of the Appeal concerns, and attached 4-pages with additional content no longer redacted. Most redactions were sustained, citing FOIA Exemption #6. Ms. Wassmer also added FOIA Exemption #7(c). The Appeal response declared that no draft or final disciplinary letters were located.
- Plaintiff’s interest in these records is substantial. The Public interest is also not insignificant, in that the Public has a right (and arguably a need) to know if agencies such as FAA are inconsistent in administering disciplinary actions upon their employees. In this case, a high-profile, national news story involving negligent and unsafe work practices produced no disciplinary action. Contrast that with Plaintiff’s case, wherein unsubstantiated charges of a one-time ill-judged word choice, by an employee with no disciplinary record, produced a firing.
- SUMMARY & RESOLUTION: Defendant FAA has failed to comply with the timelines specified within 5 U.S.C § 552, and has mis-applied FOIA Exemptions #6 and #7c. Had Defendant FAA been timely in this FOIA Appeal response, the Appeal denial letter for FOIA #2011-8134 would have been mailed 19-months earlier, in November 2011. To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted. Defendant FAA also needs to produce unredacted copies of either the disciplinary drafts or the internal memos
 The statements collected by FAA, as revealed in the response to FOIA #2011-8134, show that the DVD movies were a common practice for years, and that this risky practice was knowingly overlooked by management officials.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 43
wherein a decision was made to NOT discipline. A full resolution would require production of roughly 140-pages.
- FOIA #2012-7031: [NOTE: this FOIA Request was inadvertently listed under Claim-II in the original civil complaint filing; it is now more accurately listed under Claim-I].
- Plaintiff submitted this FOIA request on July 23, 2012. The request included a two-page copy of a ‘Briefing Item for ATO Terminal’. This agency record compiled all notes for a three-month process, in which agency officials investigated and took action against a controller accused of drawing a swastika on an official document, and referring to his supervisor as ‘Hitler’.
- The Briefing Item indicates the involvement of LR Specialist Karolyn Grimes. It also indicates that a Report of Investigation (ROI) was done by FAA Security, that a 30-day suspension was being considered, and that management closed the case on April 20, 2007.
- The FOIA Request was multi-assigned, producing three separate responses:
- A response from the Human Resources Management Office, dated August 30, 2012, included a 2-page letter signed by David Suomi, and 9-pages of responsive records. The responsive records included copies of the letter proposing a 30-day suspension, and the letter implementing a 30-day suspension. Both documents were excessively redacted, citing FOIA Exemption #6.
 Mr. Suomi was then serving as the Acting Regional Administrator at FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region (ANM), in Renton, WA. Presently, he is serving as the Acting Regional Administrator at FAA’s Western Pacific Region (AWP), in Los Angeles.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 44
- A response from the Security Office, dated September 26, 2012, included a 2-page letter signed by Regional Counsel Williams (for David Suomi). The letter identified the ROI as number ANM-20070041, stated it had been conducted on Lewis D. Olsen, and advised that all 86-pages were being withheld, citing FOIA Exemption #6.
- A response from the Air Traffic Office, dated October 17, 2012, included a 2-page letter signed by Regional Counsel Williams (for David Suomi). The letter declared that a search was conducted but no responsive records were found.
- Upon receiving the first of these three response letters, Plaintiff sent an email to Duke Taylor, Manager at FAA’s FOIA Program, on September 6, 2012. He raised concerns with Mr. Taylor and asked that he confer with the FOIA office in Renton, WA, to ensure they are fully compliant with FOIA laws.
- Plaintiff filed an Appeal on November 2, 2012. [ Exhibit-20 ]
- Six months later, on May 10, 2013, a letter signed by Victoria Wassmer (FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management), responded to the Appeal. [ Exhibit-21 ] In this 4-page letter, Ms. Wassmer cited FOIA Exemption #6, and also added FOIA Exemption #7(c), sustaining most of the earlier redactions. However, she also did disclose one new record: a partially-redacted email that previously had been fully withheld.
 The disclosed document was an email exchange from January 2007, in which WSA Terminal Ops Director Teri Bristol formally requested that FAA Security conduct an investigation and produce an ROI.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 45
- SUMMARY & RESOLUTION: To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce all withheld records, as well as unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted in the FOIA Appeal response. A full resolution would require production of the ROI and other records. The total page count should be between 100- and 150-pages, and possibly more.
- FOIA #2013-1654: [NOTE: this FOIA Request was inadvertently mis-numbered as FOIA #2013-4161 in the original civil complaint filing; the correct number is FOIA #2013-1654].
- This FOIA request was originally filed on November 28, 2012. The FOIA request sought unredacted copies of all contents within the grievance file NC-08-77405. To guard against any response error, Plaintiff also identified the facility (San Jose International Airport) and the arbitration (done on 1/17/09, before Philip Tamoush).
- Defendant FAA responded with a February 18, 2011 letter signed by the Acting Regional Administrator at FAA’s Western Pacific Region, David Suomi. Attached were 33-pages of responsive records, with numerous spot redactions citing FOIA Exemption #6.
- Plaintiff sent a letter of Appeal, [ Exhibit-22 ] dated March 17, 2013. Plaintiff’s Appeal noted that, by context, redactions were clearly inappropriate.
“…specifically, the names of FAA and Union (NATCA) officials, functioning in an official (non-personal) capacity, are NOT properly redacted using FOIA Exemption #6; there is NO personal privacy value in names of officials, names of facilities, numbers used to file documents, and other ‘non-personal’ data.”
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 46
- On May 10, 2013, a letter signed by Victoria Wassmer (FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management), responded to the Appeal, sustaining the earlier redactions. [ Exhibit-23 ] Ms. Wassmer cited FOIA Exemption #6, and also added FOIA Exemption #7(c).
- SUMMARY & RESOLUTION: Plaintiff notes and appreciates that Defendant FAA was far more timely in this FOIA response, which indicates there may be a concerted effort by Mr. Suomi and others to improve the past poor track record in FOIA request handling. However, Defendant FAA continues to redact excessively, and Defendant FAA also continues to first delay appeal responses, then produce boilerplate, form-letter appeal denial letters. To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted. A full resolution would require production of roughly 30-pages.
- Claim-II, as originally filed by Plaintiff, charges Defendant FAA with failing to make determinations on FOIA Appeals within the 20-day time limit established at 5 U.S.C § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii). Nearly all of the FOIA Appeals identified within Claim-I were excessively delayed, and thus they also are included within Claim-II. Please see paragraph 82 through paragraph 84, for details of each of the following three (3) grossly
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 47
delayed Appeal Responses: FOIA #2011-7535, FOIA #2012-6573, and FOIA #2012-6826.
- 5 U.S.C § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii) states the following:
“Each agency, upon any request for records made under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of this subsection, shall make a determination with respect to any appeal within twenty days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after the receipt of such appeal. If on appeal the denial of the request for records is in whole or in part upheld, the agency shall notify the person making such request of the provisions for judicial review of that determination under paragraph (4) of this subsection.”(bold emphasis added)
- FOIA #2011-7535:
- Plaintiff submitted this FOIA request on July 7, 2011. The request sought specified copies related to the sleeping controller incident at the tower in Knoxville, TN (TYS), which became a huge news story in early April 2011.
- Defendant FAA produced an October 31, 2010 FOIA response letter, signed by Pearlis Johnson for Douglas Murphy, Regional Administrator at FAA’s Southern Region. Exhibits totaling 59-pages were attached, with partial redactions citing FOIA Exemption #6.
- Plaintiff sent an Appeal, [ Exhibit-24 ] dated November 8, 2011. The Appeal clearly restated the records needed for a full and proper FOIA response. The Appeal letter included an analysis of Stern v. FBI, which Defendant FAA had misapplied in the FOIA response letter. The analysis cites language from Stern v. FBI and distinguishes between FOIA
 Note that in the original June 14, 2013 Complaint filing, FOIA #2012-7031 was listed under Claim-II, but it is more accurately listed under Claim-I; similarly, FOIA #2012-6573 was listed under Claim-I, but is more accurately listed under Claim-II.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 48
Exemption #6 and FOIA Exemption #7(c).
- Plaintiff had made this FOIA request with the intention of helping to inform the larger Public about the facts of this incident. Defendant FAA has impeded that effort with both an extensive delay and weak arguments against public disclosure. In his Appeal, Plaintiff argued for full disclosure with this statement:
“…in the TYS Sleeping Controller case, we have a high-profile failure of the National Airspace System, and we have two FAA TYS controllers knowingly involved, and notably they made no reports in the apparent hope that nothing would ever come to light. Most importantly, we have a Public whose interest in a safe and efficient National Airspace System demands disclosure. Clearly, there exists plenty of Public interest to be satiated.”
- Many of the records specifically requested in both the FOIA request and the Appeal continue to be fully ignored by Defendant FAA.
- Plaintiff heard nothing further from Defendant FAA, so Plaintiff made email inquiries in July 2012. Those received no response, so Plaintiff submitted a new FOIA request, [ Exhibit-25 ] essentially duplicating the original FOIA #2011-7535 request. Plaintiff’s new FOIA request was rejected in a July 17, 2012 email from Duke Taylor, Manager at FAA’s FOIA Program. The rejection email declared: “…we will not be processing any request for ‘Knoxville, TN sleeping controller incidents’ as this was answered under 2011-7535 and is now under appeal….” [ Exhibit-25 ]
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 49
- This FOIA Appeal response is long overdue. Had this FOIA Appeal been properly responded to, Defendant FAA would have produced a response more than nineteen months ago.
- RESOLUTION: To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted. The number of pages is unknown because Defendant FAA continues to ignore specific request elements. A full resolution would require production of anywhere from 60- to 100-pages, and possibly more.
- FOIA #2012-6573: [NOTE: this FOIA Request was inadvertently mis-numbered in the original civil complaint filing; the correct number is FOIA #2012-6573].
- This FOIA request was originally filed on July 11, 2012. The FOIA request sought copies of “…all pages and all records scanned into the ITS, for ROI AWP-20070078….”
- As a bit of background, ROI AWP-20070078 was a Report of Investigation completed in March 2007, based on interviews and report compilation done by FAA Special Agent James Austin. This ROI was the sole source of agency records used to justify the firing of Plaintiff, six-months prior to his turning age-50. Construction of this ROI involved sending an FAA Special Agent on a 3-day business trip to collect sworn interviews from eight FAA personnel, including Plaintiff. The 93-page ROI was extensive, but oddly it did NOT
 Special Agent Austin reported to Richard Giles, who at that time was the manager in charge of internal investigations at FAA’s Western Pacific Regional Office, in Los Angeles.
 The effect was to take away Plaintiff’s right to voluntarily retire, as he could no longer access the retirement pension he had earned in nearly 22-years of FAA/ATC service. Later, FAA Counsel offered to ‘return the stolen pension’, so long as Plaintiff would ‘voluntarily’ retire at earliest eligibility.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 50
include a report done by a different Special Agent. In this FOIA request, Plaintiff asked for copies that had been scanned into the Investigative Tracking System (ITS). Plaintiff wanted to establish a definitive list of all exculpatory records, scanned into the ITS but ignored by Special Agency Austin, when he prepared his interviews and then compiled the final version of ROI AWP-20070078.
- Defendant FAA responded with an August 9, 2012 letter signed by Flor Ramos for Edward Jones. Mr. Ramos declared that Plaintiff had already received the responsive records via a much older FOIA request, FOIA #2007-7547, Mr. Ramos was incorrect, but his letter facilitated more delays by Defendant FAA.
- Plaintiff sent a letter of Appeal, [ Exhibit-26 ] dated September 5, 2012. Plaintiff’s Appeal identified the incorrect interpretation by Mr. Ramos. Plaintiff also attached a copy of an ITS Printout showing assignment of the investigation to Mr. Austin, case closure date, etc. Plaintiff’s letter clearly articulated the gravity of the unsubstantiated content in ROI AWP-20070078, as well as the need to establish if/when other content may have been added to (or knowingly kept out of) the ROI.
- Just one month later, on October 3, 2012, Duke Taylor (Manager, FAA’s FOIA Program) sent a letter advising that the FOIA request was believed to be ‘duplicative’, and thus Mr. Taylor was immediately closing the FOIA Appeal.
 That investigative report was completed by Agent Sarita Burr on 2/20/07, just four-days after Plaintiff was inexplicably locked out from his workplace. The contents destroy the credibility of Plaintiff’s manager, Jason Ralph, who was the source of nearly all of the unsubstantiated charges against Plaintiff.
 Mr. Jones was the Deputy Director, Joint Security and Hazardous Materials, for the Western Service Area, until his recent retirement. He was also the manager in charge of Security at FAA’s Western Pacific Regional Office, in Los Angeles.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 51
Mr. Taylor’s closure letter [ Exhibit-27 ] did not declare any right of appeal against his arbitrary decision.
- RESOLUTION: Defendant FAA has chosen to arbitrarily close a FOIA request, an action that is not allowed within 5 U.S. Code § 552. Defendant FAA’s actions deny Plaintiff his right to clearly establish what records are included in the ITS file, and what records are questionably excluded from the ITS file. Disclosure of these records is of critical value in an effort to establish the full set of ‘evidence’ reviewed during the process that produced the unsubstantiated ROI. To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce an unredacted copy of the ROI in the ITS, as well as copies of all other ITS records. A full resolution would require production of records totaling 95- to 130-pages, and possibly more.
- FOIA #2012-6826:
- Plaintiff submitted this FOIA request on July 23, 2012. The request cited a ‘case file’ which had been mentioned in a recent FOIA response, and sought “…complete copies of all records held by FAA in this ‘case file’, and all other records used or considered by AWP-7 in the handling of my MSPB case….”
- Defendant FAA provided two large responses:
- A September 20, 2012 response, with 662-pages responsive to groups 1 and 3 of the FOIA request. These records were largely repeating the
 AWP-7 is the legal office at FAA’s Western Pacific Region. It is headed by Naomi Tsuda. Ms. Tsuda and another attorney, Don Bobertz, are the primary FAA attorneys who have been involved in Plaintiff’s FAA case, including his firing, his MSPB Appeal, and his FOIA requests.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 52
glut of paperwork created during the MSPB Appeal process, from December 2008 until mid-2009.
- An October 12, 2012 response, with 598-pages responsive to groups 4 and 5 of the FOIA request. FOIA Exemptions #5 and #6 were cited as the basis for more than 100 full-page redactions, and a small number of pages with partial redactions. As with the other large response packet, many of these records duplicated documents from the MSPB Appeal process, but there were a few interesting exceptions.
- Plaintiff filed an Appeal letter, dated November 2, 2012.
- Duke Taylor responded with a January 16, 2013 letter, advising the FOIA request had been remanded to AWP for further processing.
- Defendant FAA issued a remand response, dated February 12, 2013. The 109-pages that previously had been fully redacted were now provided, though many pages were partially redacted.
- Plaintiff sent a 13-page Appeal letter, dated March 14, 2013. [ Exhibit-28 ] The Appeal Letter provided a tabular chronology of the processing of this FOIA request. The Appeal letter was to include a 6-page attachment, which was a table listing agency records still needing full disclosure.
- Duke Taylor, the Manager of the FAA FOIA Program, sent Plaintiff a letter dated March 22, 2013. The letter noted that the specified attachment had been
 One exception, at page 116, is a letter from MSPB Regional Director Amy Dunning to Naomi Tsuda, confirming that, at the courtroom, “…preliminary matters and settlement discussions were not placed on the record….”
 Note that group 2 was not provided, as Plaintiff had withdrawn that request element during phone discussions with Don Bobertz, in August 2012.
 The redactions were at pages 406, 408-411, 592 and 595. Most of these redactions are revealed within other FOIA records, as obtained in the past three years. Thus, these redactions done by AWP-7 in the fall of 2012 effectively reveal yet another attempt by Defendant FAA to obstruct the disclosure of disclosable information.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 53
inadvertently left out of the Appeal letter package. Mr. Taylor advised he would not proceed until he received the attachment.
- Plaintiff sent a March 29, 2013 letter with the missing attachment. [ Exhibit-29 ] The copy was declared ‘received’ on 4/26/13, which started the clock on the Appeal response process. [ Exhibit-30 ]
- Defendant FAA’s Appeal response became overdue in late May, more than two months ago.
- RESOLUTION: To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all pages that were partially redacted in the FOIA Remand response. A full resolution would require production of roughly 40-pages, and possibly more.
- Claim-III, as originally filed by Plaintiff, charges Defendant FAA with failing to make determinations on a FOIA Request within the 20-day time limit established at 5 U.S.C § 552(a)(6)(A)(i). Please see paragraph 88 and paragraph 89, for details of each of the following delayed Appeal Responses: FOIA #2012-2082, and FOIA #2012-6967.
- 5 U.S.C § 552(a)(6)(A)(i) states the following:
“Each agency, upon any request for records made under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of this subsection, shall determine within twenty days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after the receipt of any such request whether to comply with such request and shall immediately notify the person making such request…”
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 54
“…of such determination and the reasons therefore, and of the right of such person to appeal to the head of the agency any adverse determination;” (bold emphasis added)
- FOIA #2012-2082:
- This FOIA request was originally filed on December 15, 2011. [ Exhibit-31 ] The FOIA request sought specified records related to the Operational Error that occurred at the Camarillo control tower on July 25, 2010.
- Defendant FAA acknowledged receipt of the FOIA request with a December 22, 2011 letter, signed by Joann Noonan (FOIA Specialist), assigning the FOIA number. Ms. Noonan’s letter also advised that the FOIA Coordinator was Dean Torgerson, at FAA’s Air Traffic Organization in Washington, DC.
- On April 17, 2012, after receiving an inquiry from Plaintiff, Joann Noonan sent an email to Dean Torgerson, asking that he call Plaintiff and provide an update. [ Exhibit-32 ] Mr. Torgerson ignored this request from Ms. Noonan.
- On April 23, 2012, Plaintiff sent an email to Mr. Torgerson, and also to Duke Taylor (Manager of the FAA FOIA Program) and Melanie Yohe (FAA’s FOIA Public Liaison). There was no response.
- On June 21, 2012, Plaintiff left a voicemail with Dean Torgerson, asking for an update. Mr. Torgerson never replied.
- On September 6, 2012, Plaintiff again emailed Mr. Torgerson, Mr. Taylor and Ms. Yohe. Again, no update information was provided.
- As of July 2013, Defendant FAA has provided no FOIA response, and not even any update information, on a FOIA Request that is now nearly twenty months old.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 55
- This FOIA Appeal response is long overdue. Had this FOIA Appeal been properly responded to, the copies would have been produced more than eighteen months ago.
- RESOLUTION: To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all responsive records. A full resolution would require production of the incident audio tape, as well as anywhere from 30- to 60-pages, and possibly more.
- FOIA #2012-6967:
- This FOIA request was originally filed on July 26, 2012. [ Exhibit-33 ] The FOIA request sought complete copies of all Accountability Board Case Reports, for all such cases handled by FAA’s Western Pacific Region (AWP) or Northwest Mountain Region (ANM), for reporting years 2007, 2008 and 2009.
- Defendant FAA acknowledged receipt of the FOIA request with a letter dated July 30, 2012. [ Exhibit-34 ] The assigned FOIA Coordinator was Regina Sharp, at FAA HQ. Since then, a full year has passed, yet Defendant FAA has produced no response.
- This FOIA request response is long overdue. Had this FOIA request been properly responded to, the copies would have been produced more than ten months ago.
- The production of these FAA records will inform as to how consistent FAA is in the application of disciplinary actions on the subjects of Accountability
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 56
Board investigations. Previously obtained agency records show that Defendant FAA has been extraordinarily arbitrary; similar offenses (such as the use of racially or sexually inappropriate language) have produced a wide range of penalties, from simple admonishment to removal from federal service.
- RESOLUTION: To fully resolve this element of the civil action, Defendant FAA needs to produce unredacted copies of all responsive records. A full resolution would require production of numerous one- to two-page Case Reports, totaling 40-50 pages, and possibly more.
- The full resolution of this complaint requires that Defendant FAA produce unredacted copies of thousands of pages that to date have been either partially-redacted or fully withheld. Alternatively, FAA might produce a Vaughn Index for each of these pages, but such a production would be extraordinarily inefficient and expensive. Clearly, the appropriate action by Defendant FAA is to adopt the ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ positions articulated by President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and DoT’s Deputy General Counsel, Rosalind Knapp, and simply produce (or grant access to view) the records.
- The records sought via this complaint are needed by Plaintiff in an ongoing effort to assert his Due Process rights, which Defendant FAA continues to obstruct. Plaintiff anticipates that the contents of these records will aid the newly appointed FAA
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 57
Administrator, the newly appointed Secretary of Transportation, and/or other federal officials, to order a full investigation and fair resolution of this matter. There is a clear interest to ensure that the Public can see that federal employees are made whole after having been arbitrarily damaged by rogue federal officials.
- This complaint does NOT seek judgment related to the firing of Plaintiff, or other discriminatory actions Defendant FAA took against Plaintiff. This complaint seeks only to compel Defendant FAA to comply with the FOIA statutes at 5 U.S.C. § 552. Compliance will result in the production of records, created by Defendant FAA, which Defendant FAA has improperly concealed, and which Defendant FAA is legally required to maintain.
- Plaintiff has fully exhausted his administrative remedies under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C) for his FOIA requests, and now turns to this Court to enforce the remedies and protect public access to agency records, as guaranteed by FOIA.
- I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
Respectfully submitted this 8th day of August 2013.
Jeffrey Nathan Lewis,
Plaintiff, pro se
 While Plaintiff clearly understands that many of Defendant FAA’s damaging actions are outside the scope of a FOIA lawsuit, Plaintiff is nonetheless open to an alternative resolution by this Court. Specifically, it is evident that Defendant FAA’s FOIA failures would be rendered moot if, for example, this Court obtained Agency Counsel concurrence and strongly advocated for a full and fair investigation. Such investigation would properly be conducted by the Office of Special Counsel and/or the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General.
Plaintiff’s Memo, (8/8/13), Lewis v. FAA, 3:13-CV-0992-HZ .. page 58