To make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, email email@example.com
What is the Freedom of Information Act?
Pursuant to Section 2.2-3700 et. Seq. of the Code of Virginia, as amended, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides citizens of Virginia with access to existing public records. This access is also provided to newspapers and magazines with circulation in Virginia, as well as radio and television broadcasting stations broadcasting into the Commonwealth. There are few statutory requirements for making a request under FOIA. Section 2.2-3704 indicates only that FOIA inquiries should be directed to the custodian of the requested records and must identify those records with reasonable specificity. This section also grants the custodian of the records the right to require a requester provide his or her name and address and to require payment for actual costs incurred in fulfilling the FOIA request. Click here for the Freedom of Information Act on the Code of Virginia website.
Frequently Asked Questions about FOIA requests:
1. What is a public record?
A "Public record" means all writings and recordings that consist of letters, words or numbers, or their equivalent, set down by handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostatting, photography, magnetic impulse, optical or magneto-optical form, mechanical or electronic recording or other form of data compilation, however stored, and regardless of physical form or characteristics, prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business. Code of Virginia 2.2-3701
2. What are some of the exceptions to the disclosure requirement?
The FOIA act currently lists over 80 categories of state and local official records that the public body may choose not to disclose. They include, but are not limited to, personnel records, records protected by attorney-client privilege, records compiled from or used in legally conducted closed meetings and records relating to the negotiation and award of certain contracts. There are many other exceptions. For a full, up-to-date listing of all statutory exceptions to disclosure requirements, see Section 2.2-3700 and Section 2.2-3705 of the Code of Virginia.
3. How long do I have to wait for the requested records?
The initial response to your request must be within five work days after the Clerk of Council receives your request. The Clerk must respond in one of four ways:
a. Make the records available as requested.
b. Advise you the records are being withheld as permitted by the act or other applicable statute. In this case, the response must describe generally the volume and subject matter of the withheld records and cite the specific section(s) of the Code that exempt the records from disclosure.
c. If only part of the requested record is exempt from disclosure, delete the exempted part, advise you in writing of the subject matter of the deleted part and the specific code section that exempts that part from disclosure.
d. Tell you in writing it is not practically possible to identify or collect the requested records within five work days, and explanation of why. Then the custodian of the records has an additional seven work days to make one of the three previous responses.
4. What if the information I am requesting does not exist? Is the Town required to create a report to answer my questions?
The act only applies to the disclosure of existing records. It does not require any public body to create a new record or report that does not already exist. If a list of questions is submitted for answers, even if these answers can be gleaned from existing records, the act does not require the public body to summarize or abstract the information out of its records. Sometimes the public body may find it desirable to do so, but only the request for particular documents or other specific existing records triggers the requirement for a response under the act.
5. I have been told the records I am requesting have been destroyed. Is the Town allowed to destroy public records?
The Town is actually required by Virginia State Code to manage its records in accordance with the retention schedules put forth by the Library of Virginia. For more information on the Library of Virginia, click here For more information about records retention schedules, click here.
6. I want to make a FOIA request. How do I go about doing this?
Although FOIA requests need not be made in writing, we suggest that you do so in order to make the request as clear as possible. The act does require you identify the records you are requesting with “reasonable specificity”. Your request should contain your contact information so we can respond within the required time limit. Your request does not need to cite the act. Click here to make a FOIA request.
7. Does it cost anything to make a FOIA request?
The act allows for reasonable charges to cover actual costs to access, search for, duplicate and supply the requested records. Currently, the Town charges $1.00 for the first page and $0.25 for each additional page of black and white paper documents (letter or legal size). Color copying is at a rate of $1.50 for 8.5 x 11, $2.00 for 8.5 x 14, and $3.00 for 11 x 17 if the color copying can be done in house. If the job is too large and must be sent out, commercial copying rates apply. Electronic media such as CDs are copied at $10 each and DVDs at $15 each.