The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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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.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-10

FOIA provides exemptions from mandatory disclosure for certain records related to closed meetings. However, FOIA does not address whether a mayor may demand that at the conclusion of a closed meeting members of a local governing body give to the mayor any documents distributed or notes taken during the closed meeting.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-10

A motion to convene a closed meeting must identify the subject of the meeting, the purpose of the meeting, and cite an applicable exemption from the open meeting requirements. In order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding, the preferred practice is to make a separate motion for each topic that will come under consideration during a closed meeting.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-13-09

A motion to convene a closed meeting must identify the subject of the meeting, state its purpose, and provide a reference to an applicable exemption. Quoting or paraphrasing a statutory exemption states the purpose of the meeting, but does not identify the subject. FOIA places the duty to identify the subject of a closed meeting upon the public body holding the meeting, not its attorney.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-09

Though generally local public bodies may not meet or cast votes by electronic means, a telephone conversation between an administrator and a single member of a public body is not a meeting subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-09

Boards of equalization are public bodies and are required to keep minutes of their meetings. Even before law takes effect July 1, 2009, minutes should be in writing. Audio recordings cannot be a substitute. Votes must be recorded, though those who vote need not be identified.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-09

Section 15.2-2907 says that certain meetings that are or would be subject to review by the Commission on Local Government -- like consolidation and annexation discussions -- are not subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-09

A task force jointly created by multiple public bodies to advise them is itself a public body subject to FOIA. Likewise, a regional public body provided for by statute and established by the resolutions of several local public bodies is also subject to FOIA. Both must comply with the procedural rules for conducting public meetings.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-12-08

As a general rule, an individual member of a board, designated as a liaison to staff, is not a public body for meetings purposes. Records prepared, owned, or possessed by that member in the transaction of public business are public records subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-08

Advisory committees formed by Richmond Mayor Douglas Wilder are not subject to FOIA. FOIA applies to committees formed by public bodies to perform a delegated function or provide advice to the public body. The mayor, however, is not a public body.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-08

FOIA does not require a public body to provide records, or portions thereof, that are not responsive to a request. Implementing a universal security policy requiring all visitors to present identification before entering a public building does not inherently exclude the public from attending public meetings which may be held therein.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-08

A public body may convene a closed meeting to discuss the formation and award of a procurement contract.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-13-07

FOIA allows public bodies to hold closed meetings to discuss the acquisition of real property if holding the discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body. Absent such jeopardy to the public body's bargaining position or negotiating strategy, these discussions must be open.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-07

Determining whether an entity is a public body as a committee, subcommittee, or other entity however designated of a public body depends on how the entity was formed and what functions it performs.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-07

FOIA requires public notice to be given when a public body holds a public meeting. Failure to give the required notice is a violation of FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-07

Meetings must be noticed for the time when they actually begin. A public body must approve by vote in an open meeting a motion to convene a closed meeting, and must certify the closed meeting after reconvening in open session. The motion and certification must be included in the meeting minutes, along with records of the votes taken to approve the motion and certification.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-07

The student government of a public institution of higher education is a public body subject to FOIA. The branches of student government are analogous to the organization of government generally (i.e., legislative, executive, and judicial). (Several other related issues discussed.)

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-07

The closed meeting exemption for consultation with counsel regarding specific legal matters may not be used for the purpose of discussing a general policy in the absence of any specific legal transaction or dispute.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-09-06

An entity (in this case, a redistricting committee assisting a school board) that states that its meetings are open to the public should provide public notice of those meetings, whether or not the entity is subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-06

A nonprofit foundation created by private citizens that voluntarily works with localities for the public good, but does not receive public funding, is not a public body subject to FOIA.

White Dog Publishing v. Culpeper Board of Supervisors

In considering certain newspaper publishers' application for a writ of mandamus, the circuit court erred in finding that a county board of supervisors did not violate the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by going into a closed session at a particular meeting and erred in failing to award reasonable costs and attorney's fees under the Act. Because the purpose of the closed session was not the formation or modifications of a procurement contract, it did not fall within the statutory public contract exemption of § 2.2-3711(A)(30), and special circumstances did not make an award of fees and costs unjust.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-06

There is no special exemption in FOIA for a joint committee of conference of the General Assembly to hold a closed meeting on a budget bill.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-06

It is beyond the scope of the FOI Advisory Council's authority to interpret the rules of either house of the General Assembly. There is no joint conference of the General Assembly after adjournment sine die.

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