The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive


FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-24-04

A motion to go into closed meetings to discuss 'issues relating to a specifically named individual' is too vague to identify either the subject matter under discussion or the purpose of the discussion. Though a meeting might have been closed without the proper procedure, votes taken after the meeting, provided they were recorded in public, are valid.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-23-04

Citizen applications for a vacant board of supervisors seat are exempt from disclosure as personnel records. A public body may charge $6 for a two-page document if that reflects the actual cost to the public body to produce it.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-22-04

It is the policy of the FOIAC not to issue advisory opinions on matters in pending litigation, or on matters that have already been decided by a judge of competent jurisdiction. Whether or not an entity is a public body is to be measured at the time a request for records is made. Even if entity is not a public body, records held by members of the entity who are also members of other public bodies will be subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-21-04

FOI Advisory Council lacks statutory authority to determine whether the Americans with Disabilities Act would allow sensory or physically disabled members of local public bodies to meet via electronic means when FOIA squarely prohibits it.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-17-04

the working papers exemption does not expire unless the working papers are disseminated or otherwise made public by the official to whom the exemption applies. Absent such a release, a record created by or for one of the named officials for his personal or deliberative use retains the characterization of a working paper.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-18-04

registrar clerk erred by requiring requester to put verbal FOIA request in writing. Freedom of Information Advisory Council has no authority to investigate or enforce possible FOIA violations. Dispute over whether a record exists is a fact issue for a court to resolve.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-19-04

E-mail exchanges between members of an electoral board do not violate FOIA's meeting provisions, though to the extent those e-mails relate to the transaction of public business, they are public records subject to disclosure. Centralized repository for e-mail messages between public body memers is a good idea. Before engaging in e-mail discussion of substantive matters, members of a public body should remember FOIA's public policy of granting citizens the access to witness the operations of their government.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-20-04

Because they are performing a delegated duty of the county service authority as a whole, meetings of the county service authority's customer dispute process are open.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-16-04

It appears that the intent of the law would indicate that if records do not exist, this should be stated in writing to the requester. once a deposit is requested from the public body, a requester does not have the right to demand that certain records that are believed to be easily accessible be provided immediately, before the deposit is paid, while still indicating that he wants a response to the entire request. Burden on requester to clearly indicate he is attempting to narrow a previous request, in lieu of that request. The practical perspective of dealing with the application of FOIA on a daily basis has taught [this office] that clear and concise communication between a requester and a government official -- relying on the requirements set forth in the law and not on editorial comment -- is often the best way to successfully resolve any concerns about a FOIA request.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-14-04

The exemption that allows withholding of personal information...concerning persons participating in or persons on the waiting list for federally funded rent-assistance programs applies only to the tenants' records, not the records of the contracts landlords enter into with local housing authorities.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-15-04

A citizen-organized gathering with three members of a school board for the purpose of discussing business currently pending before the board must comply with FOIA's notice provisions.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-13-04

Personal records of a university theater department audition committee member are not disclosable under FOIA or FERPA, but any standardized evaluation forms must be released to the subject student. Records pertaining to audition guidelines or procedures would be available to anyone.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-12-04

A meeting between chair and vice chair of both board of supervisors and school board is not subject to FOIA if those members were not specifcally designated as a committee of their respective boards.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-11-04

Records of all investigations of the Department of Health Professions, and not just records of active investigations, are confidential, even to the subject of the records..

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-04

An outside attorney's bill to a locality must be disclosed under FOIA, though portions that reveal the substantive details of the attorney's representation may be redacted. FOIA does not require a verbal response to a request for information.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-09-04

When choosing to withhold records from disclosure, the specific statutory authority must be cited; reference to a legislative bill is not appropriate. The school safety audit exemption does not apply to the entire audit, only the portions revealing specific security vulnerabilities.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-04

A master plan document required to be submitted to a housing authority, that comes into the director's possession during the ordinary course of business, is not a working paper.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-04

The records exemption at subdivision A 78 of § 2.2-3705 only exempts personal information provided to a public body for purposes of receiving e-mail from a public body; it does not apply to personal information provided to an individual elected official who chooses to send out e-mails or updates to constituents.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-04

Absent a court order, a public body cannot prohibit a citizen of the Commonwealth from making a FOIA request, or require her to make requests through her attorney.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-04

The Department cannot require you to pay charge that included charges for copies that you clearly did not request, and includes a charge for the benefits of the person that responded to your request, which is not an allowable charge. While FOIA does require the Department to provide you with records of the salary of Department employees, it does not require that benefits information also be made available. The Department could, at its discretion, withhold such information as a personnel record pursuant to subdivision A 4 of § 2.2-3705. In providing you the salary information, FOIA does not require the Department to create lists or spreadsheets including this information; providing you with individual records showing each employee's salary would satisfy the requirements of FOIA. While providing you with a spreadsheet of the salary information may be the most user-friendly format, the Department may not charge you for the creation of such a record without first reaching an agreement with you concerning the costs associated with its creation. The Department may still create the spreadsheets, absent an agreement, if it feels more comfortable providing the information in that format, but it cannot recoup these costs if you did not agree to it. Finally, the Department may not deny you the right to inspect the records on the grounds that you have not paid $207.50 because it did not estimate the charges in advance and request a deposit. Therefore, the records must be made available to you for inspection in accordance with your original request.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-04

When a locality delegates its animal control authority to a third party (in this case, the SPCA, a charitable organization), the records of that party related to its animal control functions are open to the public. When a locality delegates its animal control authority to a third party (in this case, the SPCA, a charitable organization), the meetings of that party related to its animal control functions are open to the public.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-04

Public body must follow FOIA's notice provision, even if planning to go into a closed meeting immediately; closed meeting can only take place within the context of an open meeting. Draft proposal between a city and a county over acquisition of water may be withheld under the exemption for contract negotations, if disclosure would jeopardize bargaining position; discussions of the proposal may also be held in closed session. Advisory Council uses subcommittee to identify a problem in FOIA and propose legislation to address it.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-04

The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, an interstate compact between Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, is subject to FOIA because the compact's terms says that Virginia law applies in cases raised under the compact. Public body may recoup costs of providing records. Records detailing legal advice given to public body may be withheld.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-27-03

In interpreting subsections (F)(1) and (G) of 2.2-3706, the General Assembly intended for records relating to criminal investigations and prosecutions to be exempt from public disclosure, whether such records are held by state or local law-enforcement officials.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-26-03

Like lists of books and quetsions asked of reference librarian, a record that showed the Web sites cisited on the Internet by a library may be exempt from disclosure.