FOIA 101: recording meetings

Here's what Virginia's FOIA says in •2.2-3707(H) about recording meetings:

Any person may photograph, film, record or otherwise reproduce any portion of a meeting required to be open. The public body conducting the meeting may adopt rules governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming or recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings, but shall not prohibit or otherwise prevent any person from photographing, filming, recording, or otherwise reproducing any portion of a meeting required to be open.

And here's what •2.2-3700(B) says:

Any ordinance adopted by a local governing body that conflicts with the provisions of this chapter shall be void.

Quoting statutes is pretty boring, I know, especially ones that seem so straight forward.

It seems clear as day: Any person. May record. Any open meeting.

Yes, there can be rules about where the recordings — which include photographs — take place, but a person cannot be prohibited from recording. And any rule that conflicts with FOIA in general, including this provision, is void.

So public bodies shouldn't put citizens who want to record a meeting at the back of the room where no one can hear, or have them sign a waiver or a permission form. Just let them record the meeting (so long as they don't impede the meeting).

It's good protection for everyone.