The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive

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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.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-41-01

Though a lcoal chamber of commerce is not a public body, records it keeps on tourism at the request and as an agent of a city council are subject to disclosure under FOIA. The chamber, not the city council is the custodian of the records where the city is not statutorily required to maintain tourism records.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-42-01

There is no exemption in Virginia's FOIA, and apparently not one in the federal FOIA either, for a list of names of individuals who have requested records under either act.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-40-01

A gathering of four of five members of a governing body prior to a regularly scheduled meeting is prohibited if the members are discussing public business, but is not prohibited if public business is not being discussed.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-39-01

A public body cannot charge a request fee unless it has determined in advance that the fee accurately reflects the cost to search and provide a requested record.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-38-01

It is not a violation of FOIA for public body members to reach a consensus in closed session, but nothing is official until a vote in open session has been taken; a motion to close a meeting listing only the purpose and the statutory citation is inadequate because it does not also identify the purpose of the meeting; FOIA insures the public's right to witness public meetings, it does not guarantee the right to participate in meetings.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-37-01

An agency remains the legal custodian of records it is mandated by law to maintain, even if it does not retain physical custody of the records.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-36-01

Whether an entity is supported wholly or principally by public funds is a case-by-case determination based on the totality of all revenue sources; however, as a guideline, an entity recieving at least two-thirds of its funding from the government is a public body.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-34-01

Neither a volunteer fire company nor a committee created to handle the company's finances are public bodies; the minutes taken by a non-public body nonetheless become public records when they are provided to a public body (such as a city council); a non-public body's financial records in the possession of a local treasurer are not public records; a public record cannot be withheld simply because the public body for whom the record is prepared has not yet received it; there is no FOIA requirement that a request for records be made in writing.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-35-01

Unlike an annual request to be notified of meetings, FOIA does not require a public body to honor a standing request for records; however, to ease the administrative burden of responding multiple requests, the body may want to honor the annual request.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-33-01

According to the federal Family Policy Compliance Office, even if a school/university has designated certain student information as directory information, it can still withhold the information in its discretion.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-31-01

Though a public body may discuss the sale of publicly held real property in closed meeting, FOIA and subsection B of ß15.2-1800 require a public meeting and vote before selling the property.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-32-01

The city manager cannot invoke the working papers exemption to protect draft budget proposals. Because those documents are routinely generated pursuant to another law, which characterizes them as the city council's property, during the ordinary course of business, they are subject to mandatory disclosure under FOIA.

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