FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-25-01


May 8, 2001

Ms. Randy Slovic
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 April 6, 2001.

Dear Ms. Slovic:

You have asked whether $50 an hour is reasonable for a public body to charge under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to copy public records. You requested documents relating to the assessed value and sale price of property sold by the City of Richmond. In response to your request, you were charged $0.25 for each copy made, as well as $50 for the hour of staff time expended in responding to your request. You indicate that upon inquiry about this charge, you were told that the person who located and copied the records was paid $50 per hour by the city, and thus the charge was the actual cost to the city in her spending an hour to respond to your request.

Subsection F of § 2.1-342 of the Code of Virginia allows a public body to make reasonable charges for its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. (Emphasis added). In addition to charging for the cost of reproducing the requested records, the Attorney General has opined that a public body may take into consideration the number of hours reasonably necessary to compile, copy and assemble the requested documents in determining the actual cost of providing copies.[fn1] In the situation that you present, it appears that the $50 charge for staff time is an actual cost incurred by the City of Richmond. Whether it was also reasonable, as required by FOIA, for the city to charge $50 for the hour of staff time spent responding to the request is a question for the courts, and not for this office.

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


Maria J.K. Everett
Executive Director


1. 1983-84 Op. Atty. Gen. Va. 436.