FOIA harassment revisited

Last year, thanks in large part to some stirring testimony from two VCOG members, a bill that would have allowed government to sue a citizen that the government felt was harassing it with FOIA requests was sent to the FOIA Council for further study.

The discussions in those FOIA Council study committees was thorough and often impassioned. Ultimately, there was no agreement and the full FOIA Council declined to recommend any measures to the 2011 General Assembly.

Nonetheless, harassment-by-FOIA is back. This time, Del. Lynwood Lewis from Accomac has introduced HB 2383. The bill would amend section 2.2-3704(C) to add this provision:

Any public body may petition the appropriate court as provided in § 2.2-3713 for a summary determination whether a requester, in making a request for records, is intending to harass or otherwise abuse the rights or privileges granted under this chapter or whether such request is overly burdensome on the public body.

What do you think of this measure? And would you be interested in testifying on the bill? Add your comments below, or send me an e-mail.


If government offices were transparent and law-abiding, there would be no need for FOIA law suits. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

I'm afraid it's actually the other way around - the harassment of CITIZENS by government officials for having requested documents they'd rather not disclose. Examples:
1. Former VDACS State Veterinarian William Sims charged me $165 for 13 pages of photocopies of documents readily available to him. A complaint by me to VCOG about these excessive charges quickly gave Dr. Sims a change of heart and I received them at no charge.

2. Currently, Sussex County is trying to charge me $45 in "administrative fees" for $2.50 worth of photocopies (5 pages @ .50/page - again documents readily available to them.)

And the list goes on - as I strive to get information on problems of animal abuse by staff in some of our non-compliant, taxpayer-supported animal pounds. As long as citizens are going to be charged with animal abuse (which I certainly support), so too should abusers who just happen to work in pounds pounds. There cannot be a double standard.

Actually, FOIA is often used by small business owners to harass their competitors by using the weight of the Federal agencies to obstruct the busy day of other other small businesses. This way, you can get a competitor's price schedule, delay their operations, and challenge every federal contract they get, all without hiring an attorney. Thanks FOIA!

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