Freedom of Information Rights & Responsibilities:
The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of the City of Waynesboro, Virginia
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 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.
FOIA Rights for Citizens of Virginia and Members of the Media
•The right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both.
•The right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
•If FOIA rights have been violated, the right to file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA. Alternatively, contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.
Making a Request for records from the City of Waynesboro, Virginia
•Records may be requested to be supplied by U.S. Mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the phone. FOIA does not require that the request be in writing, nor is it necessary to specifically state the records are requested under FOIA.
oFrom a practical perspective, it may be helpful to put the request in writing. This creates a record of the request. It also gives a clear statement of what records are requested, so that there is no misunderstanding over a verbal request. However, a FOIA request cannot be refused if it is not put in writing.
•The request must identify the records being requested with "reasonable specificity." This is a common-sense standard. It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that are requested; instead, it requires that it be specific enough so that records can be identified and located.
•The request must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA gives a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to a situation where general questions about the work of the City of Waynesboro is asked nor does it require the City of Waynesboro to create a record that does not exist.
•Electronic records may be provided in any format used by the City of Waynesboro in the regular course of business.
•If there are questions about a request, please cooperate with staff's efforts to clarify the type of records requested, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request. Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process.
To request records from the City of Waynesboro, Virginia, direct requests to one of the following:
Records Kept by the City of Waynesboro, VA
Julia Bortle, Clerk of the Council,
503 West Main Street, Suite 208
Waynesboro, Virginia 22980
Records Kept by the Police Department
Captain Kelly Walker
250 South Wayne Avenue, Suite 102
Waynesboro, Virginia 22980
Records Kept by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office
Mr. David Ledbetter
250 South Main Street
Waynesboro, VA 22980
In addition, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions about FOIA. The Council may be contacted by email, or by phone at (804) 225-3056 or [toll free] 1-866-448-4100.
Types of records
The following is a general description of the types of records held by the City of Waynesboro:
• Meeting Minutes, Ordinances, Resolutions.
• Bond Files
• Financial Disclosure Reports
• Claim Files
• Deed and Easement Files
• Records of contracts which the City of Waynesboro has entered into
• Building permits issued and building code violations
• Code Enforcement cases/history
• Zoning permits and code violations
• Site development projects
• Real Estate Files
• Economic Development budget information
• Utility billings
If you are unsure whether the City of Waynesboro has the record(s) you seek, please contact Julia Bortle, Clerk of the Council directly at 540-942-6669 or email.
The City of Waynesboro’s Responsibilities in Responding to A Request
•The City of Waynesboro must respond to a request within five working days of receiving it. "Day One" is considered the day after a request is received. The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays.
•The reason behind a request for public records from the City is irrelevant, and does not have to be stated in order to respond to a request. FOIA does, however, allow the City of Waynesboro to require the requestor’s name and legal address.
•FOIA requires that the City of Waynesboro make one of the following responses to a request within the five-day time period:
1)Requested records are provided in their entirety.
2)All of the records requested are being withheld, because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory exemption. If all of the records are being withheld, a response must be provided 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 the withholding of the records.
3)Some of the records requested are being provided, but other records are being withheld. An entire record cannot be withheld if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, a redacted portion of the record that may be withheld, and the remainder of the record must be provided. A written response must be provided stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
4)The requestor must be provided in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist. However, if another public body has the requested records, that contact information for the other public body must be provided in the response.
5)If it is practically impossible for the City of Waynesboro to respond to a request within the five-day period, that must be stated in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow an additional seven working days to respond to a request, giving a total of 12 working days to respond to a request.
•If the request results in a large number of responses, and it is felt that the records cannot be provided within 12 working days without disrupting other organizational responsibilities, a petition may be filed the court for additional time to respond to the request. However, FOIA requires that a reasonable effort be made to reach an agreement concerning the production or the records before a request is made 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. 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.
•Payment may be required for the records requested from the City of Waynesboro. FOIA allows charges 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 it is estimated that it will cost more than $200 to respond to a request, a deposit may be required, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with the request. The five days to respond to a request does not include the time between when a deposit is requested and the response.
•An estimate of the charges may be requested in advance for supplying the records. This will provide an opportunity to modify the request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.
•If the requestor owes money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the City of Waynesboro may require payment of the past-due bill before responding to a new FOIA request.
•An individual may submit an affidavit stating that he or she is receiving public assistance or otherwise stating facts showing inability to pay due to indigence. This may be used by the individual twice each year.
•A nonprofit organization designated by the Commonwealth to assist with developmental disability or the protection and advocacy for individuals with mental illness. This only exempts them from the first $20.00 of the fee.
Commonly used exemptions
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. The City of Waynesboro commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:
•Personnel matters (§ 2.2-3711.A (1) of the Code of Virginia)
•Discussion or consideration of the acquisition of real property for a public purpose, or of the disposition of publicly held real property, where discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body (§ 2.2-3711.A (3).
•Discussion concerning a prospective business or industry or the expansion of an existing business or industry where no previous announcement has been made of the business’ or industry’s interest in locating or expanding its facilities in the community (§ 2.2-3711.A (5)).
•Consultation with legal counsel employed or retained by a public body regarding specific legal matters requiring the provision of legal advice by such counsel (§ 2.2-3711.A (7)).