Requesting Records

Harki v. Department of Corrections (2020)

A Norfolk Circuit Court Judge ruled April 15, 2020, that the Virginia Department of Corrections willfully and knowingly failed to provide a Virginian-Pilot reporter with documents he requested within the 5-day response time mandated by FOIA, nor did the VDOC ask for a 7-day extension. After repeated back and forth conversations between the reporter and the VDOC, the reporter's request was "reasonably specific," as required by FOIA, and the VDOC's attempt to argue otherwise is "disingenuous," the court wrote. Citing Hurst v. City of Norfolk, the court also ruled that even if VDOC had made a request for further specificity, that would not have tolled the 5-day response time limit.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-09-19

The fundraising exemption, subdivision A 7 of § 2.2-3705.4, allows a public body to withhold certain information maintained in connection with fundraising activities by or for a public institution of higher education. The identity of a donor may only be withheld under the fundraising exemption if the donor has requested anonymity in connection with or as a condition of making a pledge or donation. Only a court has the authority to review records in camera and render a legally binding decision on whether redactions were properly made.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-05-18

A custodian may require a requester of public records to provide his legal name and address and may attempt to verify that a requester is a citizen of the Commonwealth, a representative of newspapers and magazines with circulation in the Commonwealth, or a representative of radio and television stations broadcasting in or into the Commonwealth. Requiring a specific form of identification without an alternative for those who do not have such identification, however, restricts access to information promised by the policy of FOIA. Public bodies must make a proper motion to enter into each closed meeting, even if there are multiple closed meetings within the same open meeting.

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-02-08

Weekends and legal holidays are not counted as working days when computing the five working day time limit for a response to a request for public records. A public body must inform a requester in writing when it does not have the records the requester seeks. Clear communications are essential to the operation of FOIA.

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-06-05

If a public body elects to abstract or summarize records, it can only charge for such a newly created record after a prior agreement with the requester.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-18-04

registrar clerk erred by requiring requester to put verbal FOIA request in writing. Freedom of Information Advisory Council has no authority to investigate or enforce possible FOIA violations. Dispute over whether a record exists is a fact issue for a court to resolve.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-16-04

It appears that the intent of the law would indicate that if records do not exist, this should be stated in writing to the requester. once a deposit is requested from the public body, a requester does not have the right to demand that certain records that are believed to be easily accessible be provided immediately, before the deposit is paid, while still indicating that he wants a response to the entire request. Burden on requester to clearly indicate he is attempting to narrow a previous request, in lieu of that request. The practical perspective of dealing with the application of FOIA on a daily basis has taught [this office] that clear and concise communication between a requester and a government official -- relying on the requirements set forth in the law and not on editorial comment -- is often the best way to successfully resolve any concerns about a FOIA request.

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