The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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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.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-07

A center for independent living that receives 93% of its funding from public sources is a public body subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-07

Meetings must be noticed for the time when they actually begin. A public body must approve by vote in an open meeting a motion to convene a closed meeting, and must certify the closed meeting after reconvening in open session. The motion and certification must be included in the meeting minutes, along with records of the votes taken to approve the motion and certification.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-07

The student government of a public institution of higher education is a public body subject to FOIA. The branches of student government are analogous to the organization of government generally (i.e., legislative, executive, and judicial). (Several other related issues discussed.)

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-07

The authority of the FOIA Council is limited by statute to providing advisory opinions and guidance regarding FOIA. An opinion advising on the interaction of boat titling and registration laws with provisions of the Government Data Collections and Dissemination Practices Act would be beyond the authority of this office.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-07

An electronic mail message header showing the time and date when the message was received by a public body may not be withheld as documentation or other information that describes the design, function, operation or access control features of any security system under subdivision 3 of § 2.2-3705.2.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-07

A public body may charge for the actual cost of staff time spent redacting records in response to a request. It may not charge any additional fee for a separate legal review of the same records.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-07

The closed meeting exemption for consultation with counsel regarding specific legal matters may not be used for the purpose of discussing a general policy in the absence of any specific legal transaction or dispute.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-06

A nonprofit foundation created by private citizens that voluntarily works with localities for the public good, but does not receive public funding, is not a public body subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-09-06

An entity (in this case, a redistricting committee assisting a school board) that states that its meetings are open to the public should provide public notice of those meetings, whether or not the entity is subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-06

Animal licensing records are open to the public under FOIA and §3.1-796.86. Public bodies should not collect from citizens information that will become part of a public record unless such collection is required or necessary to the mission of the public body.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-06

Opining whether a FOIA provision violates substantive due process under the federal Constitution is beyond the authority of the FOIA Council.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-06

A request for statutes and regulations granting legal authority to a public body is not a request for public records as contemplated by FOIA. FOIA expressly provides the procedure to follow if a public body needs additional time to respond to a request. A response that does not meet the procedural requirements of FOIA is not a proper response.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-06

There is no special exemption in FOIA for a joint committee of conference of the General Assembly to hold a closed meeting on a budget bill.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-06

It is beyond the scope of the FOI Advisory Council's authority to interpret the rules of either house of the General Assembly. There is no joint conference of the General Assembly after adjournment sine die.

FOI Advisory Council Opinon AO-02-06

Gathering of quorum from both a town council and a planning commission, on a topic that had once been before the council and was likely to be before it again, should have been advertised to the public as a joint meeting of both entities.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-06

FOIA requires that meeting minutes contain a summary of the discussion on matters proposed, deliberated or decided, and a record of any votes taken. Public bodies should always include in meeting minutes a summary of any matter that appears on the agenda for that meeting and of any matters that are the subject of a motion or vote.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-05

At present, there is no requirement for public body to tell records requester that the records asked for do not exist. If original records are legible, the copies should be, too. Publilc body cannot require requester to inspect records rather than copy them. Public body not required to recreate lost records or records no longer in its possession.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-05

If a public body elects to abstract or summarize records, it can only charge for such a newly created record after a prior agreement with the requester.

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