In preparation for tomorrow's seminars in Roanoke on FOIA and on records management, I asked our presenters to put together a list of FOIA tips and/or strategies. I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing what they come up with.
And in the meantime, I came up with a list of my own.
What would you add?
FOIA is a tool for gaining access to records; it's not for getting "information" or answers to questions.
FOIA is not adversarial: keep it cordial and professional.
FOIA applies to records that belong to the public; they are not the personal property of government employees.
FOIA requests do not have to be in writing (but it helps!).
FOIA requests must be answered; failure to answer is a violation.
FOIA applies to all public records, even if those records are kept on a private computer or sent from a personal email account; FOIA does not apply to purely personal records.
FOIA allows the government to charge for an employee's time searching for, copying and assembling the records.
FOIA does not have a general exemption for personal privacy.
FOIA allows only one person per political subdivision to use the "working papers" exemption.
FOIA says that salary data must be released upon request (with employee names).
FOIA applies to all public bodies and their committees, subcommittees, work groups and/or task forces.
FOIA applies to all proceedings, regardless of what they are called: formal, informal, work sessions, retreats and/or consent agenda meetings.
FOIA allows members of a public body to talk one-on-one and via email, even email sent to the entire group.
FOIA allows members of a public body to socialize at parties, so long as the purpose of the gathering is not to discuss public business.
FOIA does not require that any meeting be closed; closed-meeting exemptions are discretionary.
FOIA does not prohibit members of a public body from discussing what was said in closed session.
FOIA does not specify what a public body must vote on, nor does it say how agenda items may be added or deleted; look to a public body's own charter, bylaws, ordinances and/or state law for details on those requirements.
FOIA does not require public comment at public meetings.