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Law offices of Snider & Assocs., LLC v. Gates

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

May 28, 2014

LAW OFFICES OF SNIDER AND ASSOCIATES, LLC., Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT M. GATES, Secretary, Department of Defense, DEFENSE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING SERVICE AGENCY, Defendant

For LAW OFFICES OF SNIDER AND ASSOCIATES, LLC., Plaintiff: James Lawrence Fuchs, SNIDER AND ASSOCIATES, LLC, Baltimore, MD.

For ROBERT M. GATES, Secretary, Department of Defense, Defense Finance and Accounting Service Agency, Defendant: Rhonda Lisa Campbell, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 101

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.

Snider and Associates, LLC., a Baltimore, Maryland law firm, filed a FOIA request for payroll records of civilian employees of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service Agency (" DFAS" ) denied Snider's request because, according to its record-keepers, the sole information system that houses these records can only be searched by inputting the social security number of each employee and Snider did not provide social security numbers for the employees whose records it sought. Although

Page 102

DFAS's declarations are less detailed than would be ideal, it has put forth sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it conducted an adequate search, and Snider has not provided sufficient evidence to contradict DFAS's proffers. The Court will thus grant DFAS's motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 552, Snider and Associates, LLC requested from DFAS payroll and related information for certain civilian employees of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Def.'s Statement of Material Facts in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ ¶ 1-2. It requested spreadsheets of " overtime worked and all overtime pay," " compensatory time" earned and used, and " credit hours" earned, used, and left unused regarding " all Bargaining Unit Employees of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, including all bargaining unit employees represented by AFGE Local 22 (BUS Code 3273)," along with " each employee's first and last name, pay rate, position title, Agency position number, position description number, job series, grade, step, and FLSA exemption status (E or N)." Compl. Ex. 1 at 1-2. DFAS advised Snider that it " do[es] not maintain electronic spreadsheets or electronic lists with the information indicated in [Snider's] request; " that its " payroll records for Department of Navy civilian employees, . . . do not include information regarding bargaining unit employee status and/or the exclusive representative for bargaining units; " and that DFAS " does not have records indicating position titles, Agency position numbers, and position description numbers of employees of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, who are Department of Navy and not DFAS employees." Def.'s Mot for Summ. J. Ex. C at 1-2.

Snider responded by letter to DFAS, contending that the agency " can easily identify the proper records to produce to us" because Snider " receive[s] payroll data identical to that requested under this FOIA from DFAS all the time in other cases." Id. Ex. D at 1. Moreover, Snider claimed that counsel for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard " has been trying to get this data from DFAS for years, directly and through [the shipyard's] personnel office." Id. DFAS, while continuing to process Snider's FOIA request, informed the firm that " to conduct a search for the records you are seeking, it is imperative that you provide us with the full social security number of the individuals about whom you seek records." Id. Ex. E.

Snider filed suit to compel DFAS to produce the requested records. Compl. ¶ ¶ 4-8. Moving for summary judgment, DFAS argues that it has satisfied its burden to demonstrate an adequate search. In support of its motion, it submits the declaration of Jeffrey Presley, " Deputy Director of Civilian Pay Operations at the DFAS site in Cleveland, Ohio[,]" First Presley Decl. ¶ 2, which states that the Defense Civilian Payroll System (DCPS) is the only record system in DFAS likely to contain responsive records and that it requires social security numbers to access the relevant records. Id. ¶ ¶ 5,7. Snider apparently has not provided the necessary social security numbers. See Def.'s Mot for Summ. J. Ex. D, E.

Snider opposes summary judgment, arguing that DFAS's declarations are conclusory and that its exhibits disprove DFAS's contention that social security numbers are required to search for employee records. Pl.'s Opp. to Mot. for Summ. J. at 9-10, 13-15. Snider has also moved for discovery, including Presley's deposition. Pl.'s Mot. for Discovery at 4-6.

Page 103

II. Standard of Review


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