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Samtmann v. United States Department of Justice

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 7, 2014

C. CRAIG SAMTMANN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant

Page 83

For C. CRAIG SAMTMANN, an individual, Plaintiff: Joshua N. Rose, LEAD ATTORNEY, ROSE ADVOCATE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, Chevy Chase, MD; Kevin E. Byrnes, LEAD ATTORNEY, GRAD, LOGAN & KLEWANS, P.C., Falls Church, VA.

For U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant: Peter C. Pfaffenroth, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 84

AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION

AMY BERMAN JACKSON, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff C. Craig Samtmann has brought this lawsuit against the United States Department of Justice (" DOJ" ),[1] alleging violations of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a (2010). He alleges that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (" FBI" ) maintained an inaccurate record in his file that led to an adverse employment decision, that it wrongfully disclosed that inaccurate record, and that it refused to correct mistakes in the record, and he seeks damages and injunctive relief. See generally Am. Compl. [Dkt. # 11]. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, that plaintiff opposed. Since Counts I and II are barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and since plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to Count III, the Court will grant defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's employment with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (" FBI" ), a component of DOJ, began on January 12, 1992. Am. Compl. ¶ 5. He started as a career service employee and eventually worked his way up to the position of " Supervisory Special Agent." Id. ¶ ¶ 5-6. In March 2003, plaintiff changed divisions and accepted an appointment with the FBI's Office of Law Enforcement Coordination under the supervision of Kathleen Timmons and Louis Quijas. See Pl.'s Mem. in Opp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss or, in the alt. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 23] at 3 (" Pl.'s Opp." ). Shortly thereafter, his supervisors began expressing concerns about plaintiff's attendance and his use of leave. Ex. A to Def.'s Mem. at 1-2 [Dkt. # 16-1]. This culminated in a meeting between plaintiff, Ms. Timmons, and Mr. Quijas on December 9, 2003. See, e.g., Pl.'s Opp. at 4.

After the meeting, Ms. Timmons drafted a memorandum (" the Timmons Memo" ) memorializing her version of what took place. Mr. Quijas reviewed the memorandum and approved its contents; plaintiff was not given the opportunity to review it at that time. Ex. A to Def.'s Mem. The contents of the Timmons Memo are sealed, and they need not be set forth in this opinion because the legal rulings here do not depend upon the substance of the memorandum.

Following the December 9, 2003 meeting, plaintiff continued to work for the FBI until he voluntarily resigned on April 3, 2004. Am. Compl. ¶ 5. According to plaintiff, he elected to leave the FBI to pursue a business opportunity owning and operating a Rita's Water Ice franchise. Pl.'s Opp. at 3-4.

Subsequent to his resignation, on September 17, 2004, plaintiff submitted his first Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" )/Privacy Act request to the FBI. See Am. Compl. ¶ 17. A letter from his attorney, John Berry, sought a complete copy of plaintiff's Official Personnel File (" Personnel File" or " OPF" ). Ex. 1 to Hardy Decl. [Dkt. # 18]. The FBI responded

Page 85

on January 26, 2005, and released 399 pages of records to plaintiff. See Am. Compl. ¶ 17; Ex. 2 to Hardy Decl. [Dkt. # 18].

On March 21, 2006, plaintiff contacted the FBI for the first time to inquire about his possible reinstatement. Am. Compl. ¶ 23. After several conversations with FBI staff, plaintiff submitted a letter to Jody P. Weis of the Philadelphia Field Office, officially requesting consideration for reinstatement. Id. ¶ ¶ 23-24. Mr. Weis interviewed plaintiff on August 21, 2006, but the FBI ultimately declined to reinstate him. Id. ¶ ¶ 26, 33. On March 12, 2007, Eddie A. Winkley - the Acting Unit Chief of the Personnel Assessment Services Unit - sent a letter notifying plaintiff of the decision and explaining that it was " based on information developed during the [FBI's] preliminary background investigation." Id. ¶ 33; Ex. E to Def.'s Mem. [Dkt. # 16-1]. On March 24, 2007, plaintiff informally requested an explanation as to why his request for reinstatement was denied. Am. Compl. ¶ 39 (noting that Samtmann asked the FBI to provide " a detailed explanation of [the] decision because I do not understand the FBI's position. What was said about me and who said it? What is the process for my appeal?" ).

About one year later, on March 14, 2008, plaintiff submitted another FOIA/Privacy Act request, seeking " the last one hundred (100) pages of my personnel file." Ex. B to Def.'s Mem. [Dkt. # 16-1]. Plaintiff added a handwritten note to the form, stating that he was in the process of returning to the FBI and asserting that " [m]y last supervisor placed misleading derogatory information in my file during this process." Id. Plaintiff also added a handwritten request for " the identity of any person or organization that requested information from my file." Id. The FBI responded on May 21, 2008, and released those pages, noting that " [t]he records that you [plaintiff] have requested were previously processed under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act for another requester authorized by you." Ex. 4 to Hardy Decl. [Dkt. # 18].

Plaintiff then filed another FOIA/Privacy Act request on October 26, 2009. See Ex. 5 to Hardy Decl. [Dkt. # 18]. In this request, plaintiff specifically asked for:

1. All records relating to the Special Agent Reinstatement Interview of C. Craig Samtmann on August 21, 2006 by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Philadelphia Division, retired Special Agent in Charge Jody P. Weis and retired Applicant Coordinator/Special Agent Jeffrey L. Covington. Moreover, all communications subsequent to the interview relating to C. Craig Samtmann including those with former Assistant Director Louis J. Quijas, Office of Law Enforcement Coordination, and/or retired Unit Chief Kathleen D. Timmons.
2. All records relating to the decision made to deny reinstatement to C. Craig Samtmann as related to the letter from Assistant Director Anthony M. Bladen, Human Resources Division, to C. Craig Samtmann, dated June 5, 2009.
3. All records relating to any statement made by Mr. Quijas and/or Ms. Timmons relating to C. Craig Samtmann from January 1, 2008 to present.

Id. The FBI responded to this FOIA/Privacy Act request on April 26, 2010, and released thirty-two additional pages of records to ...


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