The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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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.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-14

Public bodies have five working days to respond to a request for public records, and may invoke an additional seven working days to respond. The statutory remedy for a FOIA violation is to file a petition for mandamus or injunction supported by an affidavit showing good cause. Only a court may decide upon the appropriate remedy in each case.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-14

Requesters and public bodies may reach their own agreements on the terms of production of public records. Such agreements should address any variations in response timing and charges to which the parties agree.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-14

Suicide reports and related records may be withheld as criminal investigative files because suicide remains a crime in Virginia. To the extent it conflicts with this opinion, AO-10-03 is hereby rescinded.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-14

FOIA does not define the term "custodian," but for FOIA purposes, generally the custodian is the person in charge of public records. Each public body may designate who is to act as custodian of its public records. FOIA does not apply to records that are not public records in the transaction of public business.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-14

This opinion discusses the use of the contract negotiations and economic development records exemptions. FOIA allows a records custodian to disclose exempt records in his discretion. FOIA does not require a custodian to engage in a balancing test in exercising that discretion, or to justify or explain a decision not to disclose exempt records.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-13

FOIA Council weighs in on availability of date of birth information held by law enforcement agencies.

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-06-13

A contract between a public body and a public employee settling an employment dispute may be withheld as a personnel record. However, accounting records that reflect payments pursuant to a settlement agreement are not exempt.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-13

Charges for public records are limited to actual costs. The actual cost to provide electronic records is not the same as the cost to provide paper copies. Estimates must be provided in advance if requested.

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-03-13

A motion to convene a closed meeting must identify the subject to be discussed, the purpose of the discussion, and cite an appropriate exemption. There are two requirements set forth in the exemption allowing public bodies to hold closed meetings to discuss real property matters: (1) that the discussion concern the acquisition of real property for a public purpose, or the disposition of publicly held real property, and (2) that discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body.

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

FOI Advisory Opinion AO-01-13

Generally, records submitted by a private company to a state agency as required by regulation are public records subject to FOIA. Marking such records proprietary and confidential does not, by itself, make them exempt from mandatory disclosure; records are only exempt if there is a specific provision of law that allows them to be withheld.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-12

A public instrumentality exercising public and essential governmental functions (in this case, Crooked Road) is a public body subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-12

Considering three different records exemptions, an adult arrestee photograph (mug shot) may not be withheld as a noncriminal incident record; may be withheld if its release would jeopardize a felony investigation; and may be withheld if the subject depicted is also a witness.

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