The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-09

Without a prior agreement, when a requester asks for records to be sent via e-mail, the government cannot bill the requester for the cost and mileage involved with delivering the records via certified mail.

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-02-09

Scholastic records, by definition, are those records which contain information directly related to a student and maintained by a public body that is an educational agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution. A denial of a records request must cite the specific Code section that authorizes the withholding of the records.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-09

The Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia is an agency of the Commonwealth supported wholly or principally by public funds; opinion also address response time, and failure to respond properly.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-13-08

A record that is not prepared by, owned by, or in the possession of a public body is not a public record subject to FOIA.

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-11-08

A record that is not prepared, owned, or possessed in the transaction of public business is not a public record subject to FOIA. When conducting private business, public officials and employees (in this case, a university law professor) should avoid indicia, such as agency letterhead, that make private records appear to carry the imprimatur of a public body.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-08

The records of a community center created and funded by local government, operated by a nonprofit organization acting pursuant to a contract with the local government, are public records subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-09-08

FOIA provides that public bodies bear the burden of proof to establish an exemption by a preponderance of the evidence. However, FOIA is silent regarding whether a requester may challenge as an abuse of discretion a decision not to disclose records that are excluded from mandatory disclosure pursuant to a valid exemption, once the exemption has been established.

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-07-08

Failure to respond to a request for records is deemed a denial of the request and a violation of FOIA. Clear communications are essential to FOIA transactions.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-08

Records concerning general law enforcement policy matters must be disclosed, but records specifying how policy will be implemented, i.e. the methods by which officers will conduct investigations, may be withheld as records of investigative techniques or procedures.

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-03-08

FOI Advisory Council discusses exemptions on vendor proprietary records, security system manuals, and school safety audits. Also discussed: duty of government to seek clarification if records request is confusing; failure to identify the volume of records requested that are subject to an exemption; and improperly denying records based on the sheer volume of the request.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-08

Weekends and legal holidays are not counted as working days when computing the five working day time limit for a response to a request for public records. A public body must inform a requester in writing when it does not have the records the requester seeks. Clear communications are essential to the operation of FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-08

Records concerning a public body's employment policies are open to disclosure. If a public body is unsure of the scope of a request, it should contact the requester to clarify the matter. A failure to respond to a records request is deemed a denial of the request and a violation of FOIA.

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-12-07

If a public body denies a request for public records in whole or part, it must send the requester a written response citing the law that allows the records to be withheld. The release of certain Department of Social Services records pertaining to child support enforcement matters is prohibited by law under Title 63.2 of the Code of Virginia.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-11-07

Exemption for e-mail subscriptions has been misinterpreted as exempting all personal information. The exemption is much narrower and applies only when given to the government to receive e-mail from that entity, and when the subscriber asks that the information be kept confidential. Also, sheriff's citizen advisory committee is not a public body.

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-09-07

FOIA allows a public body to charge for existing records. FOIA does not address what a public body may charge for additional access features beyond inspection and copying of existing records.

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.

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