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Names of Personnel Involved in Bidding Exempt Under FOIA

  

The government was not required to disclose the names of government and awardee personnel involved in a construction procurement, according to the District Court for the Eastern District of New York, because the information was exempt from disclosure under Exemption 6 of the Freedom of Information Act. In response to the plaintiff's request for the disclosure of records relating to the acquisition, the government redacted from numerous documents the names of awardee and government personnel involved in the bidding process. According to the government, the information was exempt under FOIA Exemption 6 (5 USC 552(b)(6)), which allows the government to withhold certain files when disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy. Before the district court, the plaintiff stated it sought the information to determine whether the awardee had the necessary credentials to merit an award and whether there was a conflict of interest.

No Public Interest 


The district court found the nondisclosures were proper. In its two-part inquiry (see 432 F3d 78), the court first considered whether the information was contained in a file similar to a medical or personnel file. The Supreme Court has defined "similar file" to include any record that contains "information which applies to a particular individual," and it was undisputed the information here involved the names of particular individuals. The court then balanced the public's need for the information against the privacy interest of the individuals. Although there is arguably some public interest in determining whether the government is acting in compliance with the law, the disclosure of information affecting privacy interests is permissible only if the information reveals something directly about the character of a government agency or official. Here, disclosure of the names would not directly disclose any wrongdoing, and there was no evidence to support the plaintiff's allegation the bidding process was somehow tainted. As a result, there was no public interest warranting disclosure. (Chesterfield Associates, Inc. v. U.S. Coast Guard, DC ED NY, 53 CCF 79,159)

 


 

    (The news featured above is a selection from the news covered in the Government Contracts Report Letter, which is published weekly and distributed to subscribers of the Government Contracts Reporter. )

     
  
 

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