Courts have routinely held that there is no great public interest in the alleged malfeasance or negligence of agency employees who do not occupy high-ranking positions of public trust. See, e.g., Dunkelberger v. Dep't of Justice, 906 F.2d at 782 (D.C. Cir. 1990); Stern v. FBI, 737 F.2d at 92-93; Schonberger v. Nat'l Transp. Safety Board, 508 F. Supp. 941, 944-45 (D.D.C. 1981). While there is a public interest in discerning whether the Smithsonian effectively monitors its employees, this generalized public interest in good management does not override the privacy interests of those named in the Inspector General's reports. See Carter v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, 830 F.2d 388, 390, 4 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1454 n.8 (D.C. Cir. 1987).
The Plaintiff contends that releasing the two documents at issue with redaction of any identifying information would obviate any privacy concerns. See Plaintiff's Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Further Support of Her Motion for Summary Judgment, filed April 27, 1992, at 3. Plaintiff also claims that the Court should examine the documents in camera to determine whether any segregable portions exist. The Defendant, on the other hand, claims that redaction would not cure any invasion of privacy; given the Plaintiff's narrow request for documents pertaining only to two individuals and given the fact that the parties worked together at the Museum Shops, the Defendant fears that one could easily identify the individuals involved. See Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed April 27, 1992, at 3-4. Thus, the question before the Court is whether, after the redaction of the names of any individuals in the Inspector General's reports, any portion of these documents could be released consistent with the protection of the privacy interests identified above. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b) ("any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be provided . . . after deletion of the portions which are exempt").
Releasing the documents responsive to the Plaintiff's request would necessarily abrogate the privacy interests of the two individuals named in the FOIA request. The threat to these individuals' privacy interests is "more palpable than [a] mere possibility" because, by the very fact of disclosure, the records "can be identified" as applying to one of the two named individuals. Dep't of the Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. at 381. In Schonberger v. Nat'l Transp. Safety Bd., 508 F. Supp. 941, 945 (D.D.C. 1981), the Plaintiff requested "access to information or a copy of action taken by . . . the N.T.S.B. concerning Mr. B. Michael Levins, as a result of a grievance involving Mr. Daniel Hinton." The Court held that "there is no reasonable way to segregate the material in question to protect the person's privacy because the request sought one document, identified by name and date, applying solely to one individual." Id. This case poses the same dilemma. Even if all identifying information is redacted, the requester will associate these two individuals with the remaining material in the Inspector General's reports, thereby causing the same type of embarrassment and potential for retribution which Exemption 6 endeavors to avoid.
For these reasons, the Court shall grant the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on the basis of Exemption 6.
D. THE PLAINTIFF HAS NOT PRESENTED ANY BASIS WARRANTING AN IN CAMERA REVIEW OF THE DOCUMENTS WITHHELD ON THE BASIS OF FOIA EXEMPTION 5.
Despite the fact that Plaintiff did not challenge the Defendant's assertion of Exemption (b)(5), the Plaintiff has requested the Court to review in camera those materials being withheld on the basis of this Exemption. Presumably, the Plaintiff aims to insure that the Defendant has not misrepresented the nature of the documents being withheld. This type of bare suspicion does not permit the Court to order the Defendant to submit these materials for inspection. See, e.g., Center for Auto Safety v. EPA, 731 F.2d 16, 23 (D.C. Cir. 1984); Brinton v. Dep't of State, 636 F.2d 600, 606 (D.C. Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 452 U.S. 905, 69 L. Ed. 2d 405 , 101 S. Ct. 3030 (1981) ("Because the Department's affidavits made a sufficiently detailed showing of the application of the deliberative process ground of Exemption 5, and since there is no contradictory evidence or evidence of bad faith, the district court was entirely correct in granting summary judgment without conducting an in camera inspection of the documents").
In camera inspection is unwarranted in this case. The Defendant's Vaughn index was submitted under oath. There is no allegation of agency bad faith. Moreover, the description of the documents in the Douglas Affidavit sufficiently justifies the invocation of Exemption 5. In fact, the Plaintiff essentially concedes that the description of the documents justifies the invocation of Exemption (b)(5). See Plaintiff's Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Further Support of Her Motion, filed April 27, 1992, at 4. Accordingly, the Plaintiff's request for an in camera inspection shall be denied.
For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that the FOIA does apply to the Smithsonian Institution. The Court also finds that the Defendant has properly withheld the two remaining documents in their entireties on the basis of FOIA Exemption (b)(6). Accordingly, the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be granted and the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be denied. The Court shall issue an Order of even date herewith consistent with the foregoing Memorandum Opinion.
June 25, 1992
CHARLES R. RICHEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following court-provided text does not appear at this cite in 798 F. Supp. 22.
ORDER - June 26, 1992, Filed
Upon consideration of the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment and the Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration of this Court's March 18, 1992 Order in the above-captioned case, and for the reasons articulated in this Court's Memorandum Opinion of even date herewith, it is, by this Court, this 25 day of June, 1992,
ORDERED that the Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration shall be, and hereby is, DENIED; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be, and hereby is, GRANTED, on the basis of FOIA Exemption 6; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be, and hereby is, DENIED; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the above-captioned case shall be, and hereby is, DISMISSED from the dockets of this Court.
CHARLES R. RICHEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE