FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-16-00


December 12, 2000

Mr. Kenneth Baity
Forrest, VA

The staff of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your e-mail of November 18, 2000.

Dear Mr. Baity:

You have asked whether a volunteer rescue squad would be considered a public body under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). You indicate that the organization receives a majority of its funding from citizen donations and United Way contributions. You indicate that you do not think that the organization receives state funding, other than vehicle insurance and fuel.

Section 2.1-341 of FOIA provides:

"Public body" means any legislative body; any authority, board, bureau, commission, district or agency of the Commonwealth or of any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, including cities, towns and counties; municipal councils, governing bodies of counties, school boards and planning commissions; boards of visitors of public institutions of higher education; and other organizations, corporations or agencies in the Commonwealth supported wholly or principally by public funds. (Emphasis added).

Based upon the facts you have presented, it does not appear that a volunteer rescue squad that is supported largely by public donations would fall under the definition of a public body. Public funding would not include voluntary, private donations, either from individuals or an organization such as the United Way. Public funds, as used in the definition, refers to government expenditures of money to support agencies or organizations. In order to be considered a public body, an organization would have to be supported "wholly or principally" by money received from a state or local government.

Thank you for contacting this office. I hope that I have been of assistance.


Maria J.K. Everett
Executive Director