Rights & Responsibilities:
The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of the Governor's
under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located § 2.2-3700 et. seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth
and representatives of the media access to public records held by
public bodies, public officials, and public employees.
A public record is any writing or recording -- regardless of whether
it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording,
or any other format -- that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession
of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction
of public business. All public records are presumed to be open, and
may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption applies.
The policy of FOIA states that the purpose of FOIA is to promote an
increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. In furthering
this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in
favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to
be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.
Please note that this FOIA statement also includes records connected
with the following initiatives / sites:
All Cabinet Offices have published their own FOIA
Your FOIA rights
- You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies
of public records, or both.
- You have the right to request
that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file
a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with
Making a request for records from the Governor's Office
- You may request records by U.S. Mail, fax, e-mail, in person,
or over the phone. FOIA does not require that your request be in
writing, nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting
records under FOIA.
- From a practical perspective, it may be helpful to both you
and the person receiving your request to put your request in
writing. This allows you to create a record of your request.
It also gives us a clear statement of what records you are requesting,
so that there is no misunderstanding over a verbal request. However,
we cannot refuse to respond to your FOIA request if you elect
to not put it in writing.
- Your request must identify the records you are seeking with "reasonable
specificity." This is a common-sense standard. It does not refer
to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting;
instead, it requires that you be specific enough so that we can identify
and locate the records that you are seeking.
- Your request must ask for existing records or documents.
FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply
to a situation where you are asking general questions about the work
of the Governor's Office, nor does it require the Governor's Office
to create a record that does not exist.
- You may choose to receive electronic records in any format
used by the Governor's Office in the regular course of business.
- For example, if you are requesting records maintained in an
Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically,
via e-mail or on a computer disk, or to receive a printed copy
of those records
- If we have questions about your request, please cooperate
with staff's efforts to clarify the type of records that you are
seeking, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response
to a large request. Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process,
but we may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that
we understand what records you are seeking.
To request records or to ask questions about records obtained from
the Governor's Office, you may contact our Deputy
Counselor. He can be reached at (804) 786-2211, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, the Freedom of Information
Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have
about FOIA. The Council may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com,
or by phone at (804) 225-3056 or [toll free] 1-866-448-4100.
in responding to your request
- The Governor's Office must respond
to your request within five working days of receiving it. "Day One" is
considered the day after your request is received. The five-day period
does not include weekends or holidays.
- The reason behind your request for public records from the
Governor's Office is irrelevant, and we cannot ask you why you want
the records before we respond to your request. FOIA does, however,
allow the Governor's Office to ask you to provide your name and legal
- FOIA requires that the Governor's Office make one of the
following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
- We provide you with the records that you have requested
in their entirety.
- We withhold all of the records that you have
requested, because all of the records are subject to a
specific statutory exemption. If all of the records are being
withheld, we must send you a response in writing. That writing
must identify the volume and subject matter of the records being
withheld, and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia
that allows us to withhold the records.
- We provide some of the records
that you have requested, but withhold other records. We
cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject
to an exemption. In that instance, we may redact the portion
of the record that may be withheld, and must provide you
with the remainder of the record. We must provide you with a
written response stating the specific section of the Code of
Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be
- If it is
practically impossible for the Governor's Office to respond
to your request within the five-day period, we must state
this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response
impossible. This will allow us seven additional working days
to respond to your request, giving us a total of 12 working
days to respond to your request.
If you make a request for a very
large number of records, and we feel that we cannot provide
the records to you within 12 days without disrupting our other
organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for
additional time to respond to your request. However, FOIA requires
that we make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you
concerning the production or the records before we go to court
to ask for more time.
- You may have to pay for the records that you request from
the Governor's Office. FOIA allows us to charge for the actual costs
of responding to FOIA requests. This would include items like staff
time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, or
any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records.
It cannot include general overhead costs.
- If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond
to your request, we may require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed
the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request.
The five days that we have to respond to your request does not include
the time between when we ask for a deposit and when you respond.
- You may request that we estimate in advance the charges
for supplying the records that you have requested. This will allow
you to know about any costs upfront, or give you the opportunity
to modify your request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.
- If you owe us money from a previous FOIA request that has
remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the Governor's Office may
require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your
new FOIA request.
Commonly used exemptions
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records
from public disclosure. The Governor's Office commonly withholds
records subject to the following exemptions:
- Personnel records (§ 2.2-3705.1 (1) of the Code of
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege (§ 2.2-3705.1
(2)) or attorney work product (§ 2.2-3705.1 (3))
- Vendor proprietary information (§ 2.2-3705.1 (6))
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract,
prior to a contract being awarded (§ 2.2-3705.1 (12))
- Governor's working papers (2.2-3705.7 (2)).