Rights & Responsibilities:
The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of Wythe County Board of Supervisors
under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act
Your FOIA Rights
As a Wythe County or Virginia resident or working media with circulation or broadcast covering Virginia, you have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both. Wythe County is committed to transparent government. When requesting records:
- 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 complete compliance with FOIA. Alternatively, you may contact the Virginia FOIA Council for nonbinding advisory opinion.
General Guidelines for Requests:
- All requests shall be directed to the Wythe County Freedom of Information Act Officer. All requests for information shall be directed to:
For Wythe County administrative and Board of Supervisors inquiries:
Wythe County PIO
340 S 6th St
Wytheville, VA 24382
For 911 Dispatch inquiries:
290 S 6th St
For Wythe County Sheriff’s Office inquiries:
245 S 4th St
Wytheville, VA 24382
- All requests shall contain the full name and legal address of the requestor.
- A request for public records shall identify the requested records with reasonable specificity.
- Wythe County may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records, except as otherwise dictated by the Code of Virginia §2.2, Chapter 37.
- The county shall estimate in advance, at the request of the person seeking the records, all charges for supplying requested records.
- The period within which Wythe County shall respond under this section shall be tolled for the amount of time that elapses between notice of the cost estimate and the response of the requester. If Wythe County receives no response from the requester within 30 days of sending the cost estimate, the request shall be deemed withdrawn.
- In any case where the Records Custodian determines in advance that charges for producing the requested records are likely to exceed $200, before continuing to process the request, the custodian will require the requester to pay a 50% deposit. The deposit shall be credited toward the final cost of supplying the requested records. Before processing a request for records, the Records Custodian shall require the requester to pay any amounts owed to the public body for previous requests for records that remain unpaid 30 days or more after billing.
The general fee schedule for requests is:
$33.00 per hour, after the 2nd hour, for accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records or the hourly rate of the employee(s) pulling the records (whichever is lower)
$0.10 (ten cents) per page for black and white printing or duplication.
$0.25 (twenty-five cents) per page for color printing or duplication.
General Guidelines for Reponses:
1.Requests from citizens outside of the Commonwealth may be denied at the discretion of the Records Custodian.
- According to Virginia Code § 2.2-3704, requests for public records shall identify the requested records with reasonable specificity. The request need not make reference to this chapter in order to invoke the provisions of this chapter or to impose the time limits for response by a public body. Any public body that is subject to this chapter and that is the custodian of the requested records shall promptly, but in all cases within five working days of receiving a request, provide the requested records to the requester or make one of the following responses in writing:
- The requested records are being entirely withheld. Such response shall identify with reasonable particularity the volume and subject matter of withheld records, and cite, as to each category of withheld records, the specific Code section that authorizes the withholding of the records.
- The requested records are being provided in part and are being withheld in part. Such response shall identify with reasonable particularity the subject matter of withheld portions, and cite, as to each category of withheld records, the specific Code section that authorizes the withholding of the records.
- The requested records could not be found or do not exist. However, if the public body that received the request knows that another public body has the requested records, the response shall include contact information for the other public body.
- It is not practically possible to provide the requested records or to determine whether they are available within the five-work-day period. Such response shall specify the conditions that make a response impossible. If the response is made within five working days, the public body shall have an additional seven work days or, in the case of a request for criminal investigative files pursuant to § 2.2-3706.1, 60 work days in which to provide one of the four preceding responses.
- The estimated time and cost of the pulling the records.
3.The Records Custodian may petition the appropriate court for additional time to respond to a request for records when the request is for an extraordinary volume of records or requires an extraordinarily lengthy search, and a response by the public body within the time required by this chapter will prevent the public body from meeting its operational responsibilities. Before proceeding with the petition, however, the Records Custodian shall make reasonable efforts to reach an agreement with the requester concerning the production of the records requested.
4.The Records Custodian shall not be required to create a new record if the record does not already exist. However, the Records Custodian may abstract or summarize information under such terms and conditions as agreed between the requester and the custodian.
Additional FOIA Information
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.
Making a Request for records from Wythe County and the Board of Supervisors
• 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.
o 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 Board of Supervisors, nor does it require the Board of Supervisors to create a record that does not exist.
• You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by Wythe County in the regular course of business.
o 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.
Wythe County in Responding to Your Request
• Wythe 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 Wythe 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 Wythe County to require you to provide your name and legal address.
• FOIA requires that the County make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
1) We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) If it is practically impossible for Wythe 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.
Types of records
The following is a general description of the types of records held by the Wythe County:
• Personnel records concerning employees and officials of the Board of Supervisors,
• Records of contracts which the Board of Supervisors and Wythe County offices have entered into
• Meeting Minutes
Commonly used exemptions
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Wythe County offices and the Board of Supervisors commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:
• Personnel records (§ 2.2-3705.1 (1) of the Code of Virginia)
• 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))
• Request for records is being made from an individual or entity outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia (§ 2.2-3704.A)
Policy regarding the use of exemptions
State any written policy your agency may have regarding when statutory exemptions will be invoked to withhold records. For example:
• The general policy of the Board of Supervisors is to invoke the personnel records exemption in those instances where it applies in order to protect the privacy of employees and officials of the Board of Supervisors.
• The general policy of the Board of Supervisors is to invoke the contract negotiations exemption whenever it applies in order to protect The Board of Supervisors bargaining position and negotiating strategy.
• The general policy of the Board of Supervisors is to invoke the out of state exemption whenever it applies in order to protect the taxpayers of Wythe County from the financial and staffing burden associated with filling requests for entities and individuals outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia.