The Virginia Freedom of Information Act
Rights, Responsibilities, and Policies
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Va. Code § 2.2-3700 et seq., 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.
The FOIA officer designated by the Board of Supervisors of King and Queen County to assist requesters in making requests for records and to respond to FOIA requests for public records is:
Vivian R. Seay, County Administrator | County Attorney
242 Allen’s Circle, Suite L
King and Queen Court House, Virginia 23085
Telephone: (804) 785-5975
FOIA Rights of Virginia Citizens. Certain Media Members, and Public Bodies
- You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both.
- King and Queen County has the right to make reasonable charges, not to exceed the actual cost incurred, to provide to a requester access to public records or to access, duplicate, supply, or search for requested records.
- You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance; include as a part of your request whether you would like to request a cost estimate in advance of public records, or access thereto, being provided to you.
- 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. Alternatively, you may contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.
Making a Request for records from King & Queen County
- 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 King & Queen County nor does it require King & Queen County to create a record that does not exist.
- You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by King & Queen County 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.
|If the subject of the request relates to:
|Direct the FOIA Request to:
|Administration, Planning and Zoning, Economic Development, Finance, Procurement, Environmental Regulations, or General Services
|Vivian Seay, County Administrator, County Attorney, FOIA Officer, PO Box 177, King and Queen Court House 23085 (804) 785-5975 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
|Elections or Registrar
|Diane Klausen, Registrar, PO Box 56, King and Queen Court House 23085, (804) 785-5980 or email email@example.com.
|Fire and/or EMS
|Greg Hunter, Emergency Services Coordinator, PO Box 177, King and Queen Court House 23085, (804) 785-5975, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
|Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court*
|Vanessa Porter, Clerk of Circuit Court, PO Box 67, King and Queen Court House 23085, (804) 785-5984 or email email@example.com.
|Office of the Commissioner of the Revenue *
|Kelly Lumpkin, Commissioner of the Revenue, PO Box 178, King and Queen Court House 23085, (804) 785-5976 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney *
|Meredith Adkins, Commonwealth’s Attorney, PO Box 70, King and Queen Court House 23085, (804) 785-5890 or email email@example.com.
|Office of the Sheriff *
|Sheriff W. R. Balderson, PO Box 38 King and Queen Court House 23085, (804) 785-5486 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Office of the Treasurer *
|Irene Longest, Treasurer, PO Box 98, King and Queen Court House 23085, (804) 785-5978 or email email@example.com.
|Betty Dougherty, Director of Social Services, PO Box 7, King and Queen Court House 23085. (804) 785-5977 or email Betty.Dougherty@dss.virginia.gov.
* There are five constitutional officers for King & Queen County: the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Commissioner of the Revenue, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, the Sheriff, and the Treasurer. These constitutional officers are elected by the voters of the King & Queen County and are separate and independent from King & Queen County administration and the Board of Supervisors of King & Queen County, Virginia, and their employees are not employees of King & Queen County. However, for the purposes of this FOIA Rights and Responsibilities statement, references to King & Queen County shall apply also to the Board of Supervisors of King & Queen County, Virginia as well as the five constitutional officers listed above.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (804) 225-3056 or toll free 1-866-448-4100.
King & Queen County’s Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request
- King & Queen County 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 King & Queen County is irrelevant, and you do not have to state why you want the records before we respond to your request. FOIA does, however, allow King & Queen County to require you to provide your name and legal address.
- FOIA requires that King & Queen County 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 must 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 withheld.
- We inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist (we do not have the records you want). However, if we know that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for the other public body in our response to you.
- If it is practically impossible for King & Queen County 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 working 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.
- A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records and shall make all reasonable efforts to supply the requested records at the lowest possible cost. 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 § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.
- You may have to pay for the records that you request from King & Queen County. 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.
- If you would like to request that we estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested, you must let us know that. This will allow you to know about any costs before those costs are incurred 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, King & Queen County may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.
- King and Queen County has adopted the following policy relating to charges for responses under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act:
- Costs incurred to access, supply, duplicate, search for, or otherwise provide records requested under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act will be billed to the requester at the hourly rate(s) of the person or persons assigned to provide the requested records plus the actual cost of each copy or other medium used to provide the requested records. In an effort to keep costs to a minimum, King and Queen County will assign the lowest paid staff member(s) capable of retrieving the requested records in a timely manner, except that any search of a staff member’s own records, including emails, will be conducted by that staff member regardless of compensation level, and the cost will be billed at that staff member’s hourly rate. Notwithstanding the foregoing, public records provided in response to any request made to King and Queen County under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the total cost for which does not exceed $12.00, will be provide to the requester at no cost.
Types of records
King & Queen County maintains various records necessary for the operation of local government. These include, but are not limited to, personnel, building, zoning, billing, financial, tax, grants, court, land, and public safety records.
Commonly used exemptions
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. King & Queen County commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions but expressly reserves the right to withhold all or portions of certain records pursuant to any exemption contained in the Code of Virginia:
- Personnel records (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1 (1)).
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1 (2)) or attorney work product (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1 (3)).
- Vendor proprietary information (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(6)).
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(12)).
- Personal Information (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(10)).
- Health Records (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.5).
- Social Services Records (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.5).
- Criminal Records (Va. Code § 2.2-3706).
- Social Security Number (Va. Code §2.2-3815).
- Confidential Taxpayer Information (Va. Code §58.1-3).
Policy regarding the use of exemptions
It is the general policy of King and Queen County to invoke all available exemptions. This allows the County to protect employee privacy, citizen privacy, confidentiality, negotiation/bargaining position, investigations, and legally privileged materials. Exemptions are exercised on a case-by-case basis, but the objective is to apply exemptions uniformly.