The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-18

It is possible that electronic mail message headers could include legal advice and information protected by the attorney-client privilege exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to subsection 2 of § 2.2-3705.2. That exemption includes advice from legal counsel to officers of a public body as well as employees of the public body, and does not place a limit on how many officers or employees of the public body may receive the advice at one time. It is also possible that electronic mail message headers could include information describing the design, function, operation, or access control features of a security system that would be exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to subsection 2 of § 2.2-3405.1. 
 

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-18

Application forms for medical cannabis pharmaceutical processor permits that are maintained by the Board of Pharmacy are not subject to the disclosure requirements of FOIA pursuant to § 54.1-108.

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.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-18

Discusses the use of the contract negotiations and economic development records exemptions. FOIA allows a records custodian to disclose exempt records in his discretion. Also discuss the working papers exemption as it applies to Cabinet Secretaries.

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-01-18

FOIA provides that public records must be disclosed except as otherwise specifically provided by law. Tax code provisions such as § 58.1-3 are "as otherwise specifically provided by law." The statutory authority of this office is limited to FOIA matters.

FOI Advisory Council opinion AO-07-17

Following the policy and procedures of FOIA, all public records, including procurement records, must be disclosed upon request unless an exemption or other specific provision of law allows the records to be withheld.

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-05-17

An organization, corporation, or agency in the Commonwealth that receives two-thirds (66.6%) or greater support from public funds is considered to be "supported ... principally by public funds" and therefore is a "public body" subject to FOIA. Prior opinions advised measuring an entity's level of funding at the time a request is made, but did not specify a time period to use as a measure. FOIA itself is silent on this point. We recommend using a fiscal year as the basis for determination to provide a balance between predictability in knowing whether an entity is subject to FOIA, and flexibility in recognizing changing factual circumstances.http://www.opengovva.org/foi-opinions/ao-09-05

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-17

The Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance is (for now) a public body subject to FOIA's records and meetings provisions because it receives 68% of its funding from local government budget appropriations. Should the local government funding drop below 66% of the total budget, the alliance would cease to be a public body subject to FOIA.

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.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-17

Opinion summarizes the requirements for responding to a request. A failure to respond to a request for public records is deemed a denial and a violation of FOIA. The statutory remedy for a violation is to file a petition for mandamus or injunction in general district or circuit court. The Newport News Economic/Industrial Development Authority is a public body subject to FOIA.

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.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-16

Records that have been prepared by or for the Office of the Governor for personal or deliberative use may be withheld as working papers. However, if those records are disseminated by the Office of the Governor to another agency for that agency's use in carrying out its statutory duties, then the records may not be withheld as working papers because they are no longer for personal or deliberative use of the Office of the Governor. Pursuant to subsection B of § 24.2-404, FOIA does not apply to records about individuals maintained in the voter registration system.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-15

Body worn and dashboard video recordings made by law enforcement are public records subject to FOIA. The application of exemptions from mandatory disclosure depends on the contents of the video. Duty to redact is in question following Virginia Supreme Court ruling in 2015.

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.

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-04-15

A public body does not have to create a new record that does not already exist, but may abstract or summarize information under such terms and conditions as agreed between the requester and the public body. Clear and concise communications are critical when making and responding to requests.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-15

The Office of Executive Secretary by statute operates and maintains a case management system, the operation and maintenance of the system is the transaction of OES' public business, and therefore OES' case management records are public records subject to FOIA. By operation of law, the respective clerks also remain custodians of those records, and they bear responsibility for maintaining the integrity of those records.  To the extent that OES owns or possesses such data, it is also a custodian of such records and likewise responsible to respond to a request for it under FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-15

Whether a record is exempt as a "working paper" depends on the purpose for which it was created, the person for whom it was created, and whether it has been disseminated beyond the personal or deliberative use of the official who holds the exemption.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-15

A private entity that exercises no governmental authority and is not wholly or principally supported by government funds is not a public body subject to FOIA's records and meeting requirements. Money received by a private entity from government sources under a procurement contract should not be used to determine whether an entity is wholly or principally supported by public funds.

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