Syracuse, NY — The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) today asked the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to reverse its decision withholding government organizational information on the grounds that the release would violate the privacy of individual employees.
TRAC's appeal to OPM concerned a February 23 ruling by Gary A. Lukowski, the manager of OPM's Workforce Information and Planning Group, that contended the release of the requested information about how an agency is organized into units and subunits "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."
In its appeal, TRAC said it was impossible for the requested structural information to invade personal privacy because "these records contain no information about any individual."
TRAC also noted that the OPM action directly contradicted President Obama's January 21 Transparency and Open Government memorandum pledging his administration to "an unprecedented level of openness."
The appeal to OPM was filed on National FOI Day, celebrated on March 16 in honor of President James Madison's birthday. Madison was one of the earliest and most ardent believers in the importance of open government to a democratic government.
TRAC, a part of Syracuse University, has for the last two decades obtained detailed information under the FOIA from a range of different federal agencies and then made it available to the public on its two web sites, http://trac.syr.edu/ and http://tracfed.syr.edu/.
Curiously, the very recent OPM rejection involved a request for the recent versions of a regularly updated file that the agency has provided TRAC in the past. The new information was sought to improve the accuracy and completeness of TRAC's reports and data.
"What is at stake here?" TRAC asked in its appeal to OPM's acting general counsel. "Surely not personal privacy. Rather it is the apparent desire to keep information confidential merely because public officials wish to operate in secret."