The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive


FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-14-02

Though a public body may require a requester to pay a deposit for a request likely to cost over $200 to fulfill, the public body is also required to refund the requester the difference of any overestimate. Whether it is reasonable for a public body to maintain records in a manner that makes it hard to identify them or contracts for their maintenance with an expensive third party is a matter for the courts to decide.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-15-02

City council may meet in closed session to discuss slate of candidates to fill a vacancy on that council. Discussion may include consensus or a straw poll to narrow the list of candidates, though no selection would be final or binding unless voted on at a meeting open to the public.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-16-02

A local body may not meet by any kind of electronic means; all participating members must be physically assembled in one place. The public, however, may participate in a meeting via electronic means.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-17-02

The Halifax Industrial Development Authority is a public body subject to FOIA. The FOI Advisory Council's formal written and informal opinions are advisory only; they do not carry the enforcement authority of a court ruling.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-13-02

Prison records on procedures and policies may be withheld under exemption #69 only to the extent that release of the information would jeopardize the security and safety of the building or individuals. A prison could invoke the exemption to withhold records about how a body is transported out of the prison, but if it doesn't jeopardize safety and security, then probably not information about how an inmate's designee is notified of the prisoner's illness, injury or death.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-12-02

To claim the working papers exemption, a locality can have only one chief executive, such as the mayor or the city manager. The choice is based on the form of government and the charter, not a title. Whichever one it is, a locality cannot switch back and forth from one to the other.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-10-02

a list of delinquent real property taxpayers with parcel ID, legal description, and owner's name with mailing address is a public record under FOIA. If government maintains a record on a computer disk, a requester can agree to receive a requested record in that form and pay a reasonable cost for it, not to exceed the actual cost. Government has five days to make an intitial response to a FOIA request. FOI Advisory Council opinions are advisory only.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-11-02

The FOI Advisory Council does not have authority to interpret the First Amendment. A circuit court is subject to FOIA. If the clerk's office maintains a digital database of land conveyances, that database must be made accessible to a requester.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-02

City manager may poll council members for advvice on how to spend money in the manager's discretionary fund. Motions to go into closed session must state the general exemption, the purpose and the subject matter of the meeting. No public discussion or vote is needed where a further action is not predicated on council action.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-09-02

Ironbridge Acres, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Petersburg Hospital Authority is a public body subject to FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-02

Timesheets that reveal more than an employee's job classification and rate of pay are exempt as personnel records rather than open under the FOIA provision mandating disclosure of salary info for employees making more than $10,000 annually. The Library of Virginia's Records Management and Imaging Services classification of records does not affect their status as open or exempt records under FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-02

Public body members may waive notice for themselves, but not for the public. Meetings are to be open to both the public and the press, not one or the other. A meeting of three or more members of a public body to discuss public business is to be open to the public, and the notice requirements of FOIA must be followed.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-02

A public body cannot include employee fringe benefits -- such as insurance, retirement and vacation benefits -- when assessing the fee charged for searching, retrieving and supplying records to a requester.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-02

Because no general exemption or agency-specific exemption under FOIA, nor a confidentiality mandate in the Virginia Public Procurement Act, applies, draft documents and other records related to the negotiation of contracts must be disclosed. Whether such disclosure would threaten the government's bargaining position is a matter to be taken up with the General Assembly.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-02

Expenditure records of the Department of Housing and Community Development are public records. Where detailed records exist, a summary of the information is not an acceptable response to a request for the actual records.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-02

Meetings of private organizations are not subject to FOIA. The attendance of elected officials at a private meeting does not convert the gathering to a public meeting as long as the officials did not arrange their attendance to discuss or transact public business.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-02

FOIA requires the release of records of position, job classification, official salary or rate of pay, and records of allowances or reimbursements for expenses paid. Records pertaining to the retirement of school employees may be withheld as personnel records.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-49-01

A record custodian can, in his/her discretion, create a record where none exits, but he/she cannot charge the requester for the new document without prior notification. Nothing prevents and nothing requires one governmental entity to forward the records responsive to a requester's request to another governmental entity, however, the first entity cannot charge the requester for that action. A governmental entity may not charge a FOIA requester for the time it takes a clerk to calculate how much the requester will be charged. Whether a charge is reasonable is a question for the courts.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-50-01

A county administrator, as the chief executive officer of a county, can withhold correspondence between her and the board of supervisors under the working papers exemption.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-47-01

A school district's two-business-day advance notice for record requests comports with the general FOIA requirement that requests for information must be answered within five working days.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-48-01

A nonprofit hospital's line of credit obtained from an industrial development authority is not enough to establish that the hospital is supported wholly or principally by public funds. A local board's authority, consisting only of reappointing hospital directors when others resign does not make the hospital into an entity that is performing the board's delegated functions or giving it advice.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-46-01

Though meetings with staff and government employees are not usually subject to FOIA, they are if they include a quorum of a public body's members. Informal gatherings - pre-meeting, post-meeting or some other time - are still meetings that must comply with FOIA if their purpose is to discuss public business.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-45-01

A motion to go into closed session that meets the procedural requirements of FOIA must still concern a topic that is actually a proper subject for a closed meeting. Discussion of financial incentives a locality is considering offering to lure a new business to the area is a proper subject for a closed meeting.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-44-01

The name of a physician at a particular correctional facility is public information.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-43-01

Notice of future meetings must be posted at the clerk's office and a prominent public location. Though FOIA encourages the use of electronic communication via the Internet, the town's Web site does not qualify as a prominent public location under FOIA's meeting notice provisions.