The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-25-03

Documents relating to a public relations firm hired by Newport News to assist it and its lawyers during litigation over the King William Reservoir are not protected by the attorney-client privilege or the work-product privilege. The PR agency is not an agent of the firm in the first instance, and its purpose is not part of the litigation itself in the second instance.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-24-03

Not all Department of Corrections records containing information about procedures and protocols are automatically exempt under the security exemption, (A)(69). Without viewing the records, the council notes that the procedures and protocols related to the execution of prisoners by lethal injection and electrocution may be wholly exempt.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-23-03

A meeting notice that omits the exact time of the meeting (or, in certain instances, whether there will be a public comment period) is deficient. A public body does not have an obligation to honor a standing request for agenda items that will be created in the future.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-21-03

If database is maintained in digital form, the records custodian cannot limit dissemination of the database to paper format only. Circuit courts cannot charge 50 cents per page for records subject to FOIA when those records are provided electronically; clerk could charge for search time and cost of computer disks.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-22-03

FOIA does not prohibit public bodies from regulating public comment period during open meetings. A public comment period rule prohibiting speakers from asking questions of the public body and its staff does not violate FOIA's allowance for records requests to be made verbally. FOIAC cannot render opinions regarding possible federal constitutional violations.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-20-03

When providing records that have already been assembled for easy public access, the government is not required to charge requesters anything for those records, much less the amount it cost to first compile the records for an earlier requester. Government does not have an obligation to lend out a CD of public records for requesters to make copies on their own, but it is not prohibited, and it facilitates FOIA's policy of access.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-19-03

Records held by Barnes & Noble relating to the management of pulbic university bookstores are subject to FOIA if the store is acting as the university's agent, but not if the store is acting as an independent contractor. University may not frustrate public policy of access to records on the transaction of public business by outsourcing them to independent contractors.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-17-03

If a public body has authority to censure or reprimand one of its members, it may meet in closed session to discuss it; without such authority, however, the body cannot close a meeting to discuss someone over whom the body has no control.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-18-03

A university student organization supported wholly or principally by public funds is subject to FOIA as an independent body; the parent university is not the custodian of the organization's records. It is recommended that a FOIA request made of a public body that is not the custodian of the records sought should be forwarded on to the proper custodian.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-16-03

School superintendent cannot redact portions of school safety audits when submitting to department of criminal justice services because another code provision, which is more specific, demands full disclosure of the report; thought the deparment of criminal justice services is the custodian of school safety audits submitted by school division superintendents, it is bound to release information on school vulnerability assessment components or security plans unless the school division has specifically designated those sections confidential under FOIA exemption.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-15-03

Government employee requests under FOIA should not be treated differently from requests made by citizens; letter admonishing public employee for making a FOIA request goes against the legislative intent of FOIA; as long as records were produced in accordance with FOIA, there is no remedy under the act for the simultaneous abuse of the FOIA requester.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-14-03

The Onancock Business Civic Association is not a public body when it is participating in the Main Street Program, despite needing the assent of the local governing body to participate, because the association is not supported in whole or in part by public funds; local government's consent does not create a principal-agent relationship requiring the association's records to be disclosed under FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-13-03

Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority is a public body subject to FOIA. A press conference attended by a quorum of a public body or committee members representing the body is a meeting under FOIA. Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority may not deny media kits to citizens who request them. Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority may not exclude members of the public from press conferences held to announce public business. Employees of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority may hold a private press conference without violating the letter of the law, but it would violate FOIA's spirit of openness.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-12-03

City of Newport News' failure to provide one of the four enumerated responses to a FOIA request is a violation of the act; an action for mandamus or injunction may be pursued.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-11-03

An exception to the general rule that a public body does not have to create a record that does not exist is when the requested information is for employee salaries. General recommendation that public body and requester work together to clarify requests. General advice to compare information contained in records oneself instead of relying on public body to do it.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-03

A suicide report held by a police department is generally available as a noncriminal incident report, though personal, medical or financial information may be redacted.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-09-03

A volunteer fire department that receives roughly 90% of its funds from state and local government sources is a public body subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-03

The Virginia State Bar's list of attorneys licensed to practice in the Commonwealth should be disclosed under FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-03

A public body cannot charge a requester for the cost of compiling a requested record that had already been compiled for an earlier requester.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-03

A hearing to determine whether a teacher's complaint fits the definition of grievance should be held in private session in accordance with the Education Code; FOIA does not override the requirement.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-03

A city's response for a demand of records under a subpoena duces tecum is governed by rules of the Supreme Court, not FOIA, even if those records would otherwise be available under FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-03

when examining rules adopted by public bodies governing the placement and use of recording equipment, one must examine the rules on a case-by-case basis to determine the practical implications of their application. Construing liberally the right of the public to record meetings, rules may be imposed to prevent interference with the meeting, but not in such a way as would essentially prohibit a recording from being made.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-03

The general results of an employee survey about working conditions should be released under FOIA, although those portions of the surveys that deal with identifiable individuals may be withheld as a personnel record.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-03

A public body is not authorized to purchase land between an informal vote taken in properly closed meeting but before a vote on purchase taken in open session. An informal vote taken in a closed meeting is not binding. Members of a public body may individually poll each other for their position on a matter of public business outside the context of either an open meeting or a properly closed one.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-03

Government body could not withhold personnel records pertaining to an employee subject to a disciplinary action from that employee, even if there was an active investigation in progress. Portions of the record not pertaining to that person could be redacted.

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