Attorney General's Opinion 1982-83 #727


December 15, 1982

The Honorable William P. Robinson, Jr.
Member, House of Delegates

82-83 727

This is in reply to your recent letter inquiring whether the officials and agents of a municipality, county or other governmental entity within the Commonwealth of Virginia may refuse to provide information over the telephone concerning the names, addresses and/or telephone numbers of applicants for business licenses within those entities on the grounds that such transmittal of information would violate applicable State or federal laws or regulations concerning dissemination of information. For the purposes of this Opinion, we shall assume that the records in question are governed by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Section § 2.1-342 of the Code of Virginia, a part of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (the "Act '), provides that "[except as otherwise specifically provided by law, all official records shall be open to inspection and copying by any citizens of this Commonwealth.." Although some types of records are excluded from the provisions of the Act in subparagraph (b) of § 2.1-342, the records about which you ask do not fall within such exclusions.

Section 58-46, however, does prohibit the dissemination of certain information by the commissioner of revenue. The pertinent language of § 58-46 reads as follows:

"(I)t shall be unlawful for the...commissioner of the revenue.. to divulge any information acquired by him in respect to the transactions, property, income or business of any person, firm or corporation while in the performance of his public duties."

The statute furnishes interpretative guidelines by further stating that:

"This section shall not be construed to prohibit a local tax official from disclosing whether a person, firm or corporation is licensed to do business in that locality."

This Office has held that § 58-46 prohibits neither the disclosure of the address of a business licensee nor the disclosure of the type of business for which a taxpayer is licensed.1 I concur in this conclusion and would extend it to permit the disclosure of a licensee's published telephone prepare a list of business licensees with addresses and telephone numbers upon a request for such a list. It is within the discretion of such official whether a request for such a list should be granted. However, once the list is prepared, it would be subject to further disclosure in accordance with the Act.2

I further conclude that the Privacy Protection Act, § 2.1-377 through § 2.1-386, does not prohibit public disclosure of the addresses and telephone numbers of business licensees. Such records are not records which contain "personal information" as defined in § 2.1-379(2). dissemination of records containing personal information where dissemination of such records is otherwise required or permitted by law.3 If the records contain information which may not be made public under the provisions of § 58-46, the Freedom of Information Act would not require their disclosure. However, if records containing addresses and such confidential information, the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act would require their disclosure and, thus, the Privacy Protection Act would not prohibit the disclosure.4

I am unaware of any federal law that would prohibit the disclosure of addresses and telephone numbers of business licensees.

I, therefore, am of the opinion that neither State nor federal law prohibits the dissemination of the information about which you inquire. I would reiterate, however, that the commissioner of revenue or other official need not compile a list containing such information if it does not already exist. Additionally, I am of the opinion that the Act does not prohibit a policy of providing such information only when requested in person or by written request in order to further the proper and efficient administration of the office.



1 See 1981-1982 Report of the Attorney General at 377

2 Id

3 See 2.1-380(1).

4 See 1978-1979 Report of the Attorney General

at 317.