The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive


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.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-03

A suicide report held by a police department is generally available as a noncriminal incident report, though personal, medical or financial information may be redacted.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-03

The Virginia State Bar's list of attorneys licensed to practice in the Commonwealth should be disclosed under FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-03

A public body cannot charge a requester for the cost of compiling a requested record that had already been compiled for an earlier requester.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-03

The general results of an employee survey about working conditions should be released under FOIA, although those portions of the surveys that deal with identifiable individuals may be withheld as a personnel record.

Attorney General's Opinion 2002 #149

confidential information provided to the Virginia Retirement System by limited partnerships in the private equity market may be exempt from disclosure under The Virginia Freedom of Information Act, provided such information meets the requirements of ßÝ2.2-3705(A)(47) of the Act. Even though the Retirement System may deny public access to such confidential information, the Retirement System is required to provide to a valid requester under the Act the identity of any private equity limited partnership in which it invests and the amount and present value of such investments.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-03

Government body could not withhold personnel records pertaining to an employee subject to a disciplinary action from that employee, even if there was an active investigation in progress. Portions of the record not pertaining to that person could be redacted.

Attorney General's Opinion 2002 #113

A commissioner of revenue may release names and addresses of businesses licensed in the locality. Information cannot be withheld just because it is going to be used for solicitation purposes.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-14-02

Though a public body may require a requester to pay a deposit for a request likely to cost over $200 to fulfill, the public body is also required to refund the requester the difference of any overestimate. Whether it is reasonable for a public body to maintain records in a manner that makes it hard to identify them or contracts for their maintenance with an expensive third party is a matter for the courts to decide.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-13-02

Prison records on procedures and policies may be withheld under exemption #69 only to the extent that release of the information would jeopardize the security and safety of the building or individuals. A prison could invoke the exemption to withhold records about how a body is transported out of the prison, but if it doesn't jeopardize safety and security, then probably not information about how an inmate's designee is notified of the prisoner's illness, injury or death.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-12-02

To claim the working papers exemption, a locality can have only one chief executive, such as the mayor or the city manager. The choice is based on the form of government and the charter, not a title. Whichever one it is, a locality cannot switch back and forth from one to the other.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-02

a list of delinquent real property taxpayers with parcel ID, legal description, and owner's name with mailing address is a public record under FOIA. If government maintains a record on a computer disk, a requester can agree to receive a requested record in that form and pay a reasonable cost for it, not to exceed the actual cost. Government has five days to make an intitial response to a FOIA request. FOI Advisory Council opinions are advisory only.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-11-02

The FOI Advisory Council does not have authority to interpret the First Amendment. A circuit court is subject to FOIA. If the clerk's office maintains a digital database of land conveyances, that database must be made accessible to a requester.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-02

Timesheets that reveal more than an employee's job classification and rate of pay are exempt as personnel records rather than open under the FOIA provision mandating disclosure of salary info for employees making more than $10,000 annually. The Library of Virginia's Records Management and Imaging Services classification of records does not affect their status as open or exempt records under FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-02

A public body cannot include employee fringe benefits -- such as insurance, retirement and vacation benefits -- when assessing the fee charged for searching, retrieving and supplying records to a requester.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-02

Because no general exemption or agency-specific exemption under FOIA, nor a confidentiality mandate in the Virginia Public Procurement Act, applies, draft documents and other records related to the negotiation of contracts must be disclosed. Whether such disclosure would threaten the government's bargaining position is a matter to be taken up with the General Assembly.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-02

Expenditure records of the Department of Housing and Community Development are public records. Where detailed records exist, a summary of the information is not an acceptable response to a request for the actual records.

Attorney General's Opinion 2002 #002

Library record showing which materials a minor has checked out and which materials are overdue are exempted from mandatory disclosure, even to the parent of the minor, library records exemption, #10.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-02

FOIA requires the release of records of position, job classification, official salary or rate of pay, and records of allowances or reimbursements for expenses paid. Records pertaining to the retirement of school employees may be withheld as personnel records.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-49-01

A record custodian can, in his/her discretion, create a record where none exits, but he/she cannot charge the requester for the new document without prior notification. Nothing prevents and nothing requires one governmental entity to forward the records responsive to a requester's request to another governmental entity, however, the first entity cannot charge the requester for that action. A governmental entity may not charge a FOIA requester for the time it takes a clerk to calculate how much the requester will be charged. Whether a charge is reasonable is a question for the courts.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-50-01

A county administrator, as the chief executive officer of a county, can withhold correspondence between her and the board of supervisors under the working papers exemption.