A few months ago I became aware that the MSPB’s Office of General Counsel issues advisory opinions to the Board and the field offices about issues of policy, standardization of board practice, and other matters. I made a FOIA request for 10 of these documents, without any time limitation, but 9 were withheld as exempt from disclosure to protect the deliberative policymaking process. I challenged the denial but Chairman Grundmann denied the appeal, stating that
Your request was not limited by date. Given the large volume of memoranda generated by the Office of General Counsel – the bulk of which are subject to various FOIA exemptions – the agency limited its search to one year from the date of your request. I agree that this was a reasonable limitation under the circumstances. Accordingly, I am denying your appeal.
Now it’s true that my request was a kind of fishing expedition, and that the exemption seems valid (as the FOIA allows agencies to have frank and candid exchange of views with their counsel that are exempt from disclosure), but it’s helpful to know whether the MSPB has privately considered this issue or that. While the MSPB may withhold specific memos, they may not deny their existence to the public. And should Congress or an outside investigative body be interested in the MSPB’s treatment of a certain issue, it would help to direct these entities to the existence of any relevant memos.
Besides, one might get lucky and get the memo, even if partially redacted.