March 17, 1975
THE HONORABLE WILLIAM H. HARRIS
County Attorney for Stafford County
This is in reply to your recent letter wherein you inquire as
"1. Does Virginia's Freedom of Information Law apply to
Stafford County Industrial Authority or to all industrial
"2. If it does apply, please advise to what extent the
industrial authority may have closed meetings or executive
meetings with respect to industrial clients and prospects? . .
"3. Is the industrial authority required to make public,
information concerning negotiations with industrial clients and
prospects prior to the release of the names of the industrial
client or prospect? . . .
"4. Is the industrial authority required to release publicly,
information concerning negotiations with prospective industrial
clients after the names of the proposed industrial clients or
prospects have been publicly announced? . . .
"5. What information must the industrial authority release
publicly after the negotiations are completed?
"6. Who is entitled to receive the above information with or
without request in each of the situations presented? . . ."
I shall respond to your inquiries seriatim: The Virginia Freedom
of Information Act does, in my opinion, apply to industrial
authorities. Section 2.1-341(a), Code of Virginia (1950), as amended,
sets forth the various types of public bodies to which the Act
applies and specifically includes "any authority . . . of any
political subdivision of the State. . . ." Accordingly, my response
to your first inquiry must be in the affirmative.
Your second inquiry may be answered by reference to §2.1-344
which sets forth the specific purposes for which public bodies may
hold executive or closed meetings. Section 2.1-344(a)(4) authorizes
executive or closed meetings for the specific purpose of:
"Discussion concerning a prospective business or industry
where no previous announcement has been made of the business' or
industry's interest in locating in the community."
Section 2.1-344(c) provides, however, that no vote or final action
taken in executive session shall become effective legally unless,
following such meeting, the public body reconvenes in open session
and votes affirmatively on the action taken in closed session. Thus,
any action taken by an industrial authority in executive session with
respect to a prospective industrial client must be voted upon in open
session in order to have legal validity. I am, consequently, of the
opinion that an industrial authority may hold an executive or closed
meeting for the purpose of discussing any matter relative to a
prospective business client, provided, however, that there has been
no previous announcement concerning that business' interest in
locating in the community, and provided, further, that there is
compliance with the procedural requirements of §2.1-344(c)
outlined above as to any action.
Your third and fourth inquiries deal with the release of
information, by industrial authorities, concerning negotiations with
prospective industrial clients, prior to and after public
announcement of the prospective client's interest in locating in the
community. The Freedom of Information Act imposes two basic
requirements upon public bodies. First, it requires, in
§2.1-343, that all meetings of public bodies be open to the
public, except as otherwise provided. Second, the Act requires, in
§2.1-342(a), that all official records of public bodies shall be
available for inspection and copying by citizens of this State.
Neither of these two basic provisions, or any other provision of the
Act, requires that public bodies release or provide "information" to
the public You will note, however, that I distinguish the provision
of information from the availability of official records.
Accordingly, I would advise that there is no requirement in the
Freedom of Information Act that an industrial authority release or
provide "information" either before or after public announcement of
negotiations with a prospective business client. In view of my
negative response to your third and fourth inquiries, your fifth and
sixth inquiries are rendered moot.