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.
Commonly used Exemptions
The Virginia Code allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. The Town of Gate City commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:
For a full list of exemptions, see Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.1 et seq.
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.
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.
If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA.
A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection F of VA 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.
If the Town estimates that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, the Town will require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your The five (5) days that the Town has to respond to your request does not include the time between when the Town asks for a deposit and when you respond.
If you owe the Town money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the Town of Gate City may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA.
According to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a citizen does not have to cite the act nor be required to complete any request forms. 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 the Town a clear statement of what records you are requesting. However, the Town cannot refuse to respond to your FOIA request if you elect to not put it in writing.
The Town of Gate City FOIA Officer is the Town Manager, Greg Jones, he can be reached via email at email@example.com or by calling 276-386-3831.