FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-17-00


December 12, 2000

Mr. Paul Johnson
Richmond, 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 21, 2000.

Dear Mr. Johnson:

You asked whether you may obtain access to the methodology used to place state jobs within the Commonwealth's new compensation plan. You indicate that you specifically requested information concerning the placement of your current position on the compensation scale, and were told that such information was not available to either the public or individual employees.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as expressed in § 2.1-342 of the Code of Virginia, requires mandatory disclosure of public records unless an exemption is granted pursuant to § 2.1-432.01 or disclosure is otherwise prohibited by law. A review of FOIA reveals that the information you have requested is not subject to any applicable exemptions. In addition, FOIA affirmatively provides access to records of position, job classification and salary information of public officials and employees of public bodies in clause (ii) of subsection B of § 2.1-342.01. It appears that the record that you have requested fits soundly within this provision. Thus, the law dictates that FOIA should not be construed to deny public access to this information. Furthermore, the document that you have requested is directly related to your own position, and even if the document contained identifiable personnel information, you would still be allowed access to that data. The FOIA exemption relating to personnel information, at subdivision A. 4. of § 2.1-342.01, does not deny access to the person who is the subject of the records.

The facts you set forth in your e-mail do not clearly indicate how the public body responded to your initial request for the records, aside from denying you access. Your verbal request for the records, even if you did not specifically make reference to FOIA, would invoke its requirements. Subsection B of § 2.1-342(B) of FOIA requires that if a public body withholds records because they properly fall under an exemption, the response must be in writing, identify with reasonable particularity the subject matter of the withheld records, and cite the specific Code section that authorizes the withholding. A public body has five working days from receipt of the request to provide access or this type of response.

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


Maria J.K. Everett
Executive Director