Two subcommittees of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council
were formed at the June 2, 2003, council meeting.
One, made up of council members Tom Moncure and John Edwards,
was to explore the possibility of bringing the Sexually Violent
Predators Commitment Review Committee back within the purview of
FOIA. Legislation from 2003 wholly exempted the committee from
FOIA, rather than exempting certain types of records kept or
meetings held by the committee. Only a very small handful of public
entities are completely exempt from FOIA, such as petit and grand
juries, and the Virginia State Crime Commission.
At the Aug. 14 subcommittee, representatives from the Department
of Corrections explained how the seven-member committee makes
recommendations to the Attorney General on whether inmates
convicted of sexually violent crimes should be released or diverted
to civil commitment programs when their sentence ends. The advisory
council subcommittee agreed with the DOC representatives that
certain information central to this process should remain
confidential, namely information that identifies victims, and the
in-depth mental health assessments of the inmates.
The subcommittee voted to recommend exemptions for both kinds of
information, while also revoking the total exemption for the
commitment review committee. A draft of the proposed legislation
was unanimously adopted by the full FOI council at its Dec. 1
A second subcommittee, consisting of Moncure and council member
Bill Axselle, met Aug. 27 to discuss reorganizing §2.2-3705,
the record exemptions section of the FOI Act. The motivation for
creating the subcommittee is that the current layout of the 87
exemptions for public records is unwieldy. Also, bills introduced
by the General Assembly to modify, add or delete an exemption must
include the full text of the targeted statute, that is, the whole
of §2.2-3705. As a practical matter, a reorganization would
make it easier to identify which exemptions applied and would
obviate the need to reprint all 87 exemptions in a revision.
The subcommittee, which was also attended by council members
Roger Wiley and Edwards, as well as the Coalition and
representatives from local government and press, agreed to break up
the exemptions into eight new sections:
- §2.2-3705.1. Exclusions to application of chapter;
exclusions of general application to public bodies (written legal
advice, contract negotiations, etc., shared by all public
- §2.2-3705.2. Exclusions to application of chapter; public
safety records (terrorism, school safety audits, victims of crime,
- §2.2-3705.3. Exclusions to application of chapter;
administrative investigations records (investigations related to
license applications, fraud, waste and abuse, risk management
claims, EEOC, etc.).
- §2.2-3705.4. Exclusions to application of chapter;
educational records and certain records of educational institutions
(scholastic records, records of teaching hospitals, etc.).
- §2.2-3705.5. Exclusions to application of chapter; health
and social services records (medical and mental health records,
records related to recipients of social services, etc.).
- §2.2-3705.6. Exclusions to application of chapter;
proprietary records and trade secrets (self-explanatory).
- §2.2-3705.7. Exclusions to application of chapter; records
of specific public bodies and certain other limited exemptions.
- §2.2-3705.8. Limitation on record exclusions (salary
information about public employees is open and access to
The full FOI council unanimously adopted the proposed draft,
though Edwards, also a Coalition board member, expressed his
concern over what substantive changes the General Assembly might
try to introduce once the bill is filed, even though the
reorganization is intended to be purely a technical fix. As
suggested by Wiley, the council's executive director, Maria
Everett, will include the intent of the reorganization in the
council's annual report.