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Freedom of Information Act
The following policy shall apply to requests made pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):
- The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is intended to ensure that the citizens of the Commonwealth have access to records in the custody of public officials and free entry to meetings of public bodies. It is a means for citizens to review existing records, whether written or maintained on a computer or in some other pre-existing form, but it does not require government employees to answer questions posed by citizens or to perform exhaustive searches of records in response to a vague or generalized inquiry. Records being requested are required to be identified by the requester with a reasonable degree of specificity so that they may be located easily. The Freedom of Information Act does not require local governments to compile records that do not already exist, to draw conclusions or to otherwise answer questions. Numerous exemptions exist to the requirements of FOIA so many public records are exempt from disclosure as well.
- Oral requests for a single, readily identifiable and locatable, non-exempt document will be honored. All other FOIA related requests shall be in writing and delivered or mailed to the County Administrator's Office.
The County will respond to an initial request within five workdays after the County Administrator's Office receives the request as required by the Act. The County will make one of the following responses:
- Make the records available as requested
- Advise the requester that the records are being withheld as permitted by the Act or other applicable statute. If that is the response, it will also describe generally the volume and subject matter of the withheld records and cite the Virginia Code provision that exempts the records from disclosure.
- If only part of a requested record is exempt from disclosure and it is possible to excise the exempt material, the County will delete the exempted portion, make the rest of the record available, and advise the requester in writing of the general subject matter of the deleted material and the Virginia Code provision that exempts that material from disclosure.
- Tell the requester in writing that it is not practically possible to identify or collect the requested records within five workdays and provide the County’s reasons therefor. If this response is made within five workdays, the County will have an additional seven workdays to make one of the preceding responses.
- If the request is for a particularly large volume of records or otherwise would be a hardship to the County to comply within the required time limits, the County may request additional time to respond from the requester. If additional time to respond is not granted by the requester, the County may petition the Circuit Court for more time to respond.
- FOIA allows public bodies to make reasonable charges to cover their actual costs to access, search for, duplicate and supply requested records. Accordingly, persons making FOIA requests requiring more than fifteen (15) minutes of staff time for a response shall be charged $12.50 per hour for search time, charged in fifteen minute increments. A copying charge of 20 cents per page (the first 10 pages will be provided at no charge) also will be applied for all requests for copies. Repeated requests from the same person or entity will be treated as a single request for purposes of assessing these charges.
The requester may ask for an advance estimate of the charges for complying with his or her request. If the charges are expected to exceed $200, the County may require the requester to pay the estimated charges in advance, before the request is processed. If advance payment is required, the time limit for the County’s response will stop running until payment is made.
- No additional records will be provided to requesters with an unpaid balance over 30 days from a previous request.
- Persons reviewing County documents shall do so only in the presence of a County employee or the County Attorney. The County reserves the right to assess additional charges to reimburse it for its costs incurred in connection with a request where it deems the circumstances warrant doing so, and to alter, amend or terminate this policy without notice.