FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) REQUESTER SERVICE CENTER
The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) posts many of its records on its website, including: precedential and nonprecedential Board decisions, MSPB case reports, information on the appeal process, information on the Merit System Principles, agency plans and reports, budget reports, MSPB studies, Issues of Merit newsletters, press releases, Federal Register notices, Board members’ biographies, agency organization chart, MSPB radio interviews, FOIA reports, and contact information.
Decisions of the Board may be reviewed and downloaded from the MSPB website. These decisions are generally available on the next business day after issuance. Initial decisions issued by administrative judges may be obtained through a FOIA request, as described below.
Other public records include information related to the Board's special studies and oversight functions. These studies are performed by the Office of Policy & Evaluation and consist of reports, reviews, monographs, and other similar records and background information pertaining to the MSPB's published surveys, reviews, investigative reports, and special studies.
Also included are records that have been released in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or Privacy Act that the Board believes may be of continuing public interest. Many of these publications and records are available via the MSPB website search functionality.
Case Files: The Board's appellate records are maintained in a system of records subject to the Privacy Act of 1974. These records are related to MSPB's adjudicatory process and customarily include all of the parties' pleadings – the written submissions that set out their claims, allegations, arguments, and evidence – as well as verbatim hearing records and the notices, orders, and decisions issued by the MSPB. These records may contain correspondence related to the specific cases, status letters, and requests for access to records. Access to these records is provided in accordance with FOIA and the Privacy Act. The Board's regulations implementing these statutes are at 5 C.F.R. Parts 1204 and 1205, respectively.
Administrative Records: These records are common to most Federal agencies and include records such as human resources, procurement, budget and finance, travel, printing, and property. Also included are records related to the administration of Government-wide programs such as FOIA and the Privacy Act and other records related to the Board's correspondence and communications with the public, other Government agencies, members of Congress, and the White House.
A FOIA request can be made for any agency record. You can also specify the format in which you wish to receive the records. You should be aware that FOIA does not require agencies to do research for you, to analyze data, to answer written questions, or to create records in response to a request.
A FOIA request must be made in writing and must reasonably describe the records you seek. You should identify what you seek as concisely as possible so that an MSPB employee will be able to locate the requested records within a reasonable amount of time and effort. You should include an email address or telephone number where you may be reached so that MSPB may contact you if it is necessary to clarify your request.
MSPB uses FOIAonline for electronically receiving and tracking FOIA requests. Requestors are encouraged to submit their FOIA request through FOIAonline. Requestors also are encouraged to register with FOIAonline. Registered users can track the progress of each request, communicate directly with MSPB staff handling requests at all points in the process, and receive records electronically, eliminating potential mailing fees and delivery delays. For more information on using FOIAonline, please visit the FOIAonline FAQs.
Requests for information should be directed to the Office of the Clerk of the Board or the regional or field office believed to hold the information sought. Please visit the Contact page for addresses. If necessary, MSPB will redirect the request, and we will attempt to respond as soon as possible within 20 working days of receipt by the appropriate office. If you are unsure where to direct your request, contact the Office of the Clerk of the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 254-4475, or (202) 653-7200 for assistance.
The FOIA and Privacy Act allow MSPB to assess fees to recover the Government's cost for duplicating its records. If the Board determines that the duplication costs will exceed $100, we will contact you for your consent to the charges before providing the records. To avoid this delay, indicate in your request the maximum amount of fees that you are willing to pay for the records. The Board will contact you before exceeding that amount.
If you believe that you qualify for a waiver or reduction in the fee payment under the provisions of FOIA, you should state this in your initial request. You must explain in your request your reasons why the fees should be waived or reduced. There is no provision for waiving fees under the Privacy Act.
The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, provides U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens with a right of access to information concerning them that is maintained by any agency in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. The Act also established controls over what personal information the Federal Government collects and how it uses or discloses that information. MSPB publishes System of Record Notices (SORNs) that identify its systems of records. A “system of records” is a group of records under the control of any agency where the agency retrieves information in those records by the name of an individual or by some other number, symbol, or particular that identifies an individual.
MSPB regulations at 5 C.F.R. part 1205 set forth the provisions and procedures for submitting a Privacy Act or Privacy Act amendment request. An appellant or their representative may submit a request for a complete copy of the appellant’s MSPB appeal file. See 5 C.F.R. § 1201.53. For many recent appeals, a complete copy of an appeal file may be viewed and downloaded by the parties (appellants and active appellant or agency representatives) through the e-Appeal Repository at https://e-appeal.mspb.gov/. If your entire appeal file is not available electronically through e-Appeal, or you do not wish to use the e-Appeal Repository to access your file, you may submit a written request for a copy of your appeal file by email to email@example.com; fax to (202) 653-7130; or mail to the Office of the Clerk of the Board, Attn: Privacy Act Requests, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 1615 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20419.
If you are seeking records on yourself, you are required to verify your identity. See 5 C.F.R. § 1205.13. This verification allows MSPB to protect your privacy and ensure that private information about you is not disclosed inappropriately to someone else. Whenever you request information about yourself you will be asked to provide either a notarized statement or a statement signed under penalty of perjury stating that you are the person who you say you are. When you submit your request, you must provide your full name, current address, and some piece of information only you would be likely to know, such as your date of birth or personal email address. You must also: (1) have your signature on your request letter witnessed by a notary, or (2) include the following statement immediately above the signature on your request letter: "I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on [date]." If you would like someone else to request records on your behalf, the requestor must submit similar verification of their identity and must include a Privacy Act waiver, agreement of representation, court order of guardianship, etc. If you request information about yourself and do not follow one of these procedures, your request cannot be processed.
The Privacy Act also allows individuals to submit a request for an “amendment” of a record. Individuals who know or suspect that information maintained about them in an MSPB system of records is inaccurate, irrelevant, untimely, or incomplete may request that MSPB correct or amend the information. Only factual information about an individual is subject to correction or amendment; MSPB’s provisions at 5 C.F.R. part 1205 are not intended to permit the alteration of evidence presented in the course of adjudication before MSPB either before or after MSPB has rendered a decision on the appeal. See 77 FR 65206. Additionally, the Privacy Act does not grant a right to individuals to appeal adjudicatory rulings or determinations made by MSPB concerning them; instead, the Board’s regulations at 5 C.F.R. part 1201 provide options within the adjudicatory framework for individuals who disagree with rulings in their appeals.
A Privacy Act amendment or correction request must also verify the requester’s identity (see above) and should include: a statement that the request is made pursuant to the Privacy Act; a detailed description of the information to which the request pertains; and a written statement explaining why the requester believes that the information in question is not accurate, relevant, timely, or complete. A Privacy Act amendment request should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org; fax to (202) 653-7130; or mail to the Office of the Clerk of the Board, Attn: Privacy Act Requests, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 1615 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20419.
If you currently represent an appellant or are newly representing an appellant during ongoing proceedings (initial appeal, petition for review, or litigation), you must file a designation of representative in accordance with the Board’s regulations at 5 C.F.R 1201.31. (You may use MSPB’s Designation of Representative form available on our website). Once your designation of representative is processed by MSPB, you can access the appellant’s case file through the e-Appeal Repository. For general questions regarding e-Appeal or filing a designation of representative, please contact the appropriate regional or field office or send an email to email@example.com.
If you represent an appellant after the conclusion of MSPB proceedings, or you need copies of pleadings not available through the e-Appeal Repository, you must submit a Privacy Act request on behalf of your client. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining that you represent an appellant and that you request a copy of their case file, and include the MSPB docket number(s), if possible. Please specify in your request whether you desire an electronic or paper copy of the case file or particular case file submissions. You also must include an agreement of representation from the appellant if you did not previously file a designation with MSPB. (You may use MSPB’s Designation of Representative form available on our website). This allows MSPB to protect the appellant’s privacy and ensure that private information about them is not disclosed inappropriately to someone else.
Most MSPB case files do not contain a transcript. Rather, the audio file of the hearing, typically prepared by a court reporter, is deemed the official record of the hearing. 5 C.F.R. § 1201.53(a). For recent cases, many hearing audio files are available for listening through the e-Appeal Repository; however, they are not available for download at this time. You may request a copy of the hearing CD by sending an email to email@example.com.
For a copy of a transcript, if neither party has previously ordered a transcript, then you need to contact the court reporter for the hearing. You can obtain the court reporter’s information by calling the regional or field office where the case was adjudicated. The transcript generally will be at cost for the appellant or appellant’s attorney. If one of the parties (or the administrative judge) previously ordered a transcript, MSPB received a courtesy copy of the transcript, which should be visible on the index in the e-Appeal Repository under that docket number. If it is visible on the index but is not available for download, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a copy.
You may file an administrative appeal if you are not satisfied with MSPB’s initial response to your FOIA or Privacy Act request. You will be advised of your right to file an administrative appeal in the initial response. All appeals must be made in writing and addressed to the Chairman of the MSPB. Appeals may be submitted electronically through FOIAonline (for FOIA appeals only); email to email@example.com; fax to (202) 653-7130; or by mail to: Chairman, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Attn: FOIA/Privacy Act Appeals, 1615 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20419. The appeal must be postmarked (or in the case of electronic submissions, transmitted) within 10 working days after the date of the initial response.
There is no specific form or particular language needed to file an administrative appeal. You should include the tracking number assigned to your initial request, a copy of your initial request, and MSPB’s initial response. You should explain what specific action you are appealing, such as MSPB's denial of access (in whole or in part) to requested information; a determination that the requested records do not exist; or a denial of a fee waiver request.
On occasion, Executive Branch departments and agencies, courts, or other entities need access to or a copy of an MSPB appeal file. As explained above, usage of MSPB’s appeals and case records is governed by MSPB’s System of Records Notice (SORN). See 77 FR 65206. The MSPB’s SORN contains a list of routine uses, including categories of users and the purposes of such uses, for records in this system. A request by an agency, court, or other entity for access to or a copy of an appeal file pursuant to a routine use must be submitted in writing, describe the routine use that applies for the requested disclosure, and identify the responsible person acting on behalf of the relevant entity. Requests may be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org; fax to (202) 653-7130; or mail to the Office of the Clerk of the Board, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 1615 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20419.
If you have additional questions about MSPB’s FOIA and Privacy Act processes, please contact the FOIA Service Center liaison by email to email@example.com; phone at (202) 653-4475 or (202) 653-7200; fax to (202) 653-7130; or mail to the Office of the Clerk of the Board, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 1615 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20419.