The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-17-04

the working papers exemption does not expire unless the working papers are disseminated or otherwise made public by the official to whom the exemption applies. Absent such a release, a record created by or for one of the named officials for his personal or deliberative use retains the characterization of a working paper.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-16-04

It appears that the intent of the law would indicate that if records do not exist, this should be stated in writing to the requester. once a deposit is requested from the public body, a requester does not have the right to demand that certain records that are believed to be easily accessible be provided immediately, before the deposit is paid, while still indicating that he wants a response to the entire request. Burden on requester to clearly indicate he is attempting to narrow a previous request, in lieu of that request. The practical perspective of dealing with the application of FOIA on a daily basis has taught [this office] that clear and concise communication between a requester and a government official -- relying on the requirements set forth in the law and not on editorial comment -- is often the best way to successfully resolve any concerns about a FOIA request.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-14-04

The exemption that allows withholding of personal information...concerning persons participating in or persons on the waiting list for federally funded rent-assistance programs applies only to the tenants' records, not the records of the contracts landlords enter into with local housing authorities.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-13-04

Personal records of a university theater department audition committee member are not disclosable under FOIA or FERPA, but any standardized evaluation forms must be released to the subject student. Records pertaining to audition guidelines or procedures would be available to anyone.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-11-04

Records of all investigations of the Department of Health Professions, and not just records of active investigations, are confidential, even to the subject of the records..

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-04

An outside attorney's bill to a locality must be disclosed under FOIA, though portions that reveal the substantive details of the attorney's representation may be redacted. FOIA does not require a verbal response to a request for information.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-09-04

When choosing to withhold records from disclosure, the specific statutory authority must be cited; reference to a legislative bill is not appropriate. The school safety audit exemption does not apply to the entire audit, only the portions revealing specific security vulnerabilities.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-04

A master plan document required to be submitted to a housing authority, that comes into the director's possession during the ordinary course of business, is not a working paper.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-04

Absent a court order, a public body cannot prohibit a citizen of the Commonwealth from making a FOIA request, or require her to make requests through her attorney.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-04

The Department cannot require you to pay charge that included charges for copies that you clearly did not request, and includes a charge for the benefits of the person that responded to your request, which is not an allowable charge. While FOIA does require the Department to provide you with records of the salary of Department employees, it does not require that benefits information also be made available. The Department could, at its discretion, withhold such information as a personnel record pursuant to subdivision A 4 of § 2.2-3705. In providing you the salary information, FOIA does not require the Department to create lists or spreadsheets including this information; providing you with individual records showing each employee's salary would satisfy the requirements of FOIA. While providing you with a spreadsheet of the salary information may be the most user-friendly format, the Department may not charge you for the creation of such a record without first reaching an agreement with you concerning the costs associated with its creation. The Department may still create the spreadsheets, absent an agreement, if it feels more comfortable providing the information in that format, but it cannot recoup these costs if you did not agree to it. Finally, the Department may not deny you the right to inspect the records on the grounds that you have not paid $207.50 because it did not estimate the charges in advance and request a deposit. Therefore, the records must be made available to you for inspection in accordance with your original request.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-04

Public body must follow FOIA's notice provision, even if planning to go into a closed meeting immediately; closed meeting can only take place within the context of an open meeting. Draft proposal between a city and a county over acquisition of water may be withheld under the exemption for contract negotations, if disclosure would jeopardize bargaining position; discussions of the proposal may also be held in closed session. Advisory Council uses subcommittee to identify a problem in FOIA and propose legislation to address it.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-04

The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, an interstate compact between Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, is subject to FOIA because the compact's terms says that Virginia law applies in cases raised under the compact. Public body may recoup costs of providing records. Records detailing legal advice given to public body may be withheld.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-27-03

In interpreting subsections (F)(1) and (G) of 2.2-3706, the General Assembly intended for records relating to criminal investigations and prosecutions to be exempt from public disclosure, whether such records are held by state or local law-enforcement officials.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-26-03

Like lists of books and quetsions asked of reference librarian, a record that showed the Web sites cisited on the Internet by a library may be exempt from disclosure.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-25-03

Documents relating to a public relations firm hired by Newport News to assist it and its lawyers during litigation over the King William Reservoir are not protected by the attorney-client privilege or the work-product privilege. The PR agency is not an agent of the firm in the first instance, and its purpose is not part of the litigation itself in the second instance.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-24-03

Not all Department of Corrections records containing information about procedures and protocols are automatically exempt under the security exemption, (A)(69). Without viewing the records, the council notes that the procedures and protocols related to the execution of prisoners by lethal injection and electrocution may be wholly exempt.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-21-03

If database is maintained in digital form, the records custodian cannot limit dissemination of the database to paper format only. Circuit courts cannot charge 50 cents per page for records subject to FOIA when those records are provided electronically; clerk could charge for search time and cost of computer disks.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-22-03

FOIA does not prohibit public bodies from regulating public comment period during open meetings. A public comment period rule prohibiting speakers from asking questions of the public body and its staff does not violate FOIA's allowance for records requests to be made verbally. FOIAC cannot render opinions regarding possible federal constitutional violations.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-20-03

When providing records that have already been assembled for easy public access, the government is not required to charge requesters anything for those records, much less the amount it cost to first compile the records for an earlier requester. Government does not have an obligation to lend out a CD of public records for requesters to make copies on their own, but it is not prohibited, and it facilitates FOIA's policy of access.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-19-03

Records held by Barnes & Noble relating to the management of pulbic university bookstores are subject to FOIA if the store is acting as the university's agent, but not if the store is acting as an independent contractor. University may not frustrate public policy of access to records on the transaction of public business by outsourcing them to independent contractors.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-18-03

A university student organization supported wholly or principally by public funds is subject to FOIA as an independent body; the parent university is not the custodian of the organization's records. It is recommended that a FOIA request made of a public body that is not the custodian of the records sought should be forwarded on to the proper custodian.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-16-03

School superintendent cannot redact portions of school safety audits when submitting to department of criminal justice services because another code provision, which is more specific, demands full disclosure of the report; thought the deparment of criminal justice services is the custodian of school safety audits submitted by school division superintendents, it is bound to release information on school vulnerability assessment components or security plans unless the school division has specifically designated those sections confidential under FOIA exemption.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-14-03

The Onancock Business Civic Association is not a public body when it is participating in the Main Street Program, despite needing the assent of the local governing body to participate, because the association is not supported in whole or in part by public funds; local government's consent does not create a principal-agent relationship requiring the association's records to be disclosed under FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-12-03

City of Newport News' failure to provide one of the four enumerated responses to a FOIA request is a violation of the act; an action for mandamus or injunction may be pursued.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-11-03

An exception to the general rule that a public body does not have to create a record that does not exist is when the requested information is for employee salaries. General recommendation that public body and requester work together to clarify requests. General advice to compare information contained in records oneself instead of relying on public body to do it.

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