The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-05

Nothing in FOIA prohibits the release of the name of a juvenile shot and killed by a police officer, but §16.1-301 appears to serve as a broad prohibition against the release of law-enforcement records relating to juvniles.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-05

School board's motion to go into closed session complied with FOIA's three-part test for such motions. County's vague reference to affirm a recommendation on a personnel matter identified by number rather than by name or position did not comport with FOIA's requirement that votes taken after reconvening after a closed meeting must describe the substance of the action.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-28-04

The issue of whether a private entity that receives less than 66 percent of its budget from governmental sources is principally supported by public funds must be considered on a case-by-case basis. The receipt by a private entity of public money derived from arm's length transactions, without any other source of public funds, should not be included in determining the private entity's status as a public body under FOIA. As such, the Peninsula SPCA is not a 'public body' and therefore is not subject to the records and meeting requirements of FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-26-04

The Virginia Board of Bar examiners has discretion under §54.1-108 to withhold the passing score an individual made on the bar exam, even when it is the subject individual making the request. The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners can elect to withhold aggregate data on bar exam results under the board's broad grant of authority under §54.1-3922. The FOI Advisory Council does not have authority to determine whether an agency has abused its discretion in withholding information it is legally entitled to withhold.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-27-04

A task force created by a mayor-elect is not a public body subject to FOIA, as the Mayor-elect is not an official covered by FOIA until he takes office.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-25-04

FOIA requests and responses should be clearly communicated and shold avoid editorial comments so that the process does not become adversarial. Minutes of state agencies created prior to July 1, 2004, may be inadequate representations of what transpired in a meeting; a public body is not required to recreate the actions of a pre-July 1, 2004, meeting in revised minutes.

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.

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