Copying and Inspection

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-07-11

Summarizes the requirements for making and responding to a FOIA request. Clear communications between the parties are essential. Public bodies are reminded to provide one of the five responses required by statute.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-12

In responding to a request for public records, a public body is responsible to provide the public records prepared by, owned by, or in the possession of the responding public body. When it provides all such responsive public records that it has, no additional response is required under FOIA.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-08-09

Public records posted on a public body's Web site remain subject to FOIA. It is generally expected that public bodies will not charge for sending brief electronic mail messages providing Web addresses or copied excerpts of electronic records, as the actual costs incurred usually are negligible.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-06-09

Without a prior agreement, when a requester asks for records to be sent via e-mail, the government cannot bill the requester for the cost and mileage involved with delivering the records via certified mail.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-05

At present, there is no requirement for public body to tell records requester that the records asked for do not exist. If original records are legible, the copies should be, too. Publilc body cannot require requester to inspect records rather than copy them. Public body not required to recreate lost records or records no longer in its possession.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-04-04

The Department cannot require you to pay charge that included charges for copies that you clearly did not request, and includes a charge for the benefits of the person that responded to your request, which is not an allowable charge. While FOIA does require the Department to provide you with records of the salary of Department employees, it does not require that benefits information also be made available. The Department could, at its discretion, withhold such information as a personnel record pursuant to subdivision A 4 of § 2.2-3705. In providing you the salary information, FOIA does not require the Department to create lists or spreadsheets including this information; providing you with individual records showing each employee's salary would satisfy the requirements of FOIA. While providing you with a spreadsheet of the salary information may be the most user-friendly format, the Department may not charge you for the creation of such a record without first reaching an agreement with you concerning the costs associated with its creation. The Department may still create the spreadsheets, absent an agreement, if it feels more comfortable providing the information in that format, but it cannot recoup these costs if you did not agree to it. Finally, the Department may not deny you the right to inspect the records on the grounds that you have not paid $207.50 because it did not estimate the charges in advance and request a deposit. Therefore, the records must be made available to you for inspection in accordance with your original request.

Attorney General's Opinion 1999 #017

The custodian of the records may place the burden for copying the records on the citizen making the request if the custodian has no system or computer database available that is capable of producing the copies.

Attorney General's Opinion 1986-87 #283

Record custodian can take precautions to preserve/safeguard records; also can set limits on the use of the office where records will be inspected. Clerk of courtÄ…s deed receipts book and real property appraisal cards are open to inspection under the Tax Code.

Attorney General's Opinion 1981-82 #443

County-made maps are protected by copyright laws, and the county, as owner of the copyright has exlusive copying rights. County can charge no more than actual costs for making copies of maps.

Attorney General's Opinion 1979-80 #387

A computer tape of a real estate assessments in an official record. County need not provide computer tape for citizen copying if tape is stored off-premises and a hard copy is available for public inspection in the county offices.

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