The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-18

A custodian may require a requester of public records to provide his legal name and address and may attempt to verify that a requester is a citizen of the Commonwealth, a representative of newspapers and magazines with circulation in the Commonwealth, or a representative of radio and television stations broadcasting in or into the Commonwealth. Requiring a specific form of identification without an alternative for those who do not have such identification, however, restricts access to information promised by the policy of FOIA. Public bodies must make a proper motion to enter into each closed meeting, even if there are multiple closed meetings within the same open meeting.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-18

Discusses general open meetings requirements of public bodies and their committees as well as obligations of public bodies in response to a request for public records. A public body is not required to record open meetings itself but must afford the public the opportunity to record the meetings. A committee of a public body is not required to record minutes of an open meeting if the committee membership is comprised of less than a majority of the public body membership. While a public body must post a link on its website to any routine exemption policy for records, there is no requirement as to how that policy is formed or that the policy be contained in a physical policy document. A public body must state in writing the reasons why public records are not provided in response to a request for public records.

Bragg v. Board of Supervisors (SCOVA)

Virginia Supreme Court unanimously rules that citizen's affidavit in support of an alleged closed meeting violation adequately demonstrated good cause for proceeding.

Batterson v. Voorhees

Batterson v. Voorhees, Powhatan County Judge Paul W. Cella

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-18

The definition of "public body" includes, among other entities, "any committee, subcommittee, or other entity however designated, of the public body created to perform delegated functions of the public body or to advise the public body." A budget task force appointed by a school superintendent that advises the superintendent is not a "public body" under this definition.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-18

A motion to convene a closed meeting must identify the subject of the meeting, the purpose of the meeting, and the exemption(s) which allow the meeting to be closed. A motion that fails to identify the subject, or lacks any other element, is insufficient. There is no general exemption for public bodies to discuss police investigations in closed meetings. Votes are required to be taken at open meetings; decisions made in closed meetings are not effective until a vote is taken at an open meeting.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-17

The FOIA Council's first opinion under its new executive director, Alan Gernhardt, tackles the three-day notice rule for public meetings.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-17

A motion to convene a closed meeting must identify the subject of the meeting, the purpose of the meeting, and the exemption(s) which allow the meeting to be closed. A motion that fails to identify the subject, or lacks any other element, is insufficient.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-17

FOIA prohibits voting at public meetings by secret or written ballot as well as voting by telephone or other electronic communication means. However, FOIA does not address the use of electronic voting systems that use computer software to cast, record, and publicly display the votes at a public meeting. Whether such a system comports with FOIA depends on whether it publicly displays the individual vote of each member of the public body, or merely the final vote tally.

Attorney General Opinion A6-046 2016

Section 24.2-107 of the Code of Virginia requires local electoral boards to post on an official website whatever kinds of minutes they keep, including both draft and final minutes.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-16

A motion to convene a closed meeting that contains a general reference to the subject matter to be discussed does not satisfy the requirement to identify the subject. If a member feels that a closed meeting discussion strays beyond the matters identified in the motion to convene, that member shall make a statement to that effect to be included in the minutes before the public body votes to certify the closed meeting. In such a situation, it is expected that the member who feels that the discussion strayed will vote against the motion to certify when the vote is called. Further, if the motion to convene a closed meeting purports to discuss a subject (or subjects) but the actual discussion is of some other topic not addressed in the motion, that would be a violation of FOIA.

Moody v. Portsmouth

The letter signed by five members of a city council and presented to another council member in a closed meeting should have been voted on first in open session.

Attorney General Opinion 15-020_Morris

A blanket prohibition against public comment at public meetings on "specific personnel or student concerns" and speech identifying school officials or employees violates free speech principles, as does a prohibition against all "personal attacks."

Denton v. Hopewell

Circuit Court of Richmond Judge W. Allan Sharrett rules Hopewell cannot used a closed meeting to discuss whom to elect to the positions of mayor or vice mayor.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-15

Generally, FOIA does not prohibit the release of public records or the exercise of free speech. FOIA does not grant special rights to elected officials that differ from those of other Virginia citizens. Real estate appraisals may be withheld until the completion of a proposed purchase, sale, or lease.

Attorney General Opinion 2015-027

The Attorney General concluded on Sept. 4, 2015, that the Suffolk Wetlands Board does not have to permit public comment during meetings where public comment is not statutorily required. However, "because of the overarching importance of open government and free discussion with citizens," the AG says that "the Board may from time to time choose to permit public comment when public comment is not required."

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-15

A local governing body may not convene a closed meeting in order to discuss the salaries of the members pursuant to the personnel closed meeting exemption.

FOi Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-15

Meeting minutes must include a summary of the discussion on matters proposed, deliberated or decided, and a record of any votes taken. A verbatim transcript is not required. A public body has the discretion to include specific comments made at the meeting or not so long as the minutes include the required summary and record of votes.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-13

A committee or advisory group of a public body that performs a delegated function or advises the public body is itself a public body. A committee or advisory group created by an individual to advise that individual is not a public body. In either case, however, records prepared, owned, or possessed by the committee or advisory group in the transaction of public business are public records subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-13

A committee that was created by action of a city council, but does not advise the city council or perform a delegated function of the city council, is not a public body subject to FOIA for meetings purposes. However, records of such a committee that are in the transaction of public business are public records subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-13

FOIA is silent regarding the logistics of holding a public meeting. In a situation where the meeting room lacks the capacity to accommodate all those who wish to attend, the best practice is to move to a larger venue and use technology to increase public access, when possible.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-12

Subsection F of § 2.2-3707 requires that agenda packets be made available for public inspection at the same time they are furnished to members of the public body

Hill v. Fairfax County School Board

The Supreme Court of Virginia rules that the rapid and extensive exchange of emails leading up to a meeting is not itself a meeting triggering FOIA's requirements.

Attorney General Opinion 12-9-11

AG reviews 4th Circuit opinions that place limits on when and how sectarian prayers can be invoked at public meetings.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-11

A rescue squad which is a town department is subject to FOIA for records purposes, but is not subject to the open meetings requirements of FOIA.

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