Rights & Responsibilities:
The Rights of Requesters and
the Responsibilities of the City of Richmond
under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),
§ 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
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.
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. Alternatively, you may contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.
Making a Request for records from the City of Richmond
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, nor does it require
the city to create a record that does not exist.
You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by the city 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.
City Departments' Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request
The department 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 department is irrelevant, and you do not have to state why you want
the records before we respond to your request. FOIA does, however, allow the department to require you to provide your name
and legal address.
FOIA requires that the department make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
- Provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
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, the department 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.
Provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other records. The department cannot withhold an
entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, the department may redact the
portion of the record that may be withheld, and must provide you with the remainder of the record. The department 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.
Inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found in the department's possession or do not exist (i.e.,
the department does not have the records you want). However, if the department knows that another city department or
another public body has the requested records, the department must include contact information in the response to you.
If it is practically impossible for the department to respond to your request within the five-day period, it must state
this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow the department seven
additional working days to respond to your request, giving it a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.
If you make a request for a very large number of records, and the cepartment feels that it cannot provide the records to you
within 12 working days without disrupting its other organizational responsibilities, it may petition the court for additional
time to respond to your request. However, FOIA requires that the department make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement
with you concerning the production or the records before going 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. 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.
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 the department as FOIA allows the department 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 the department estimates that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, it may require you to pay a deposit, not to
exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The five days that the department has to respond to your
request does not include the time between when the department requests a deposit and when you provide such deposit.
You may request that the department 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
If you owe the city money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the department may require
payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.
Types of records
The following is a general description of the types of records held by the city:
- Personnel records concerning city employees and officials
- Records of city contracts
- Records specific to the operations of the various city departments
If you are unsure whether the department has the record(s) you seek, please contact the department's FOIA Officer.
Commonly used exemptions, § 2.2-3705.1
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Commonly used exemptions include
- 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)
City FOIA Policy
The city's policy regarding responding to requests for records is
Administrative Regulation 3.1.
City Department FOIA Officers
To request records from the city, you may direct your request to applicable city department through the FOIA Officers for such
departments as listed below.
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] at (866)448-4100.
|Department||FOIA Contact||Agency Head|
|Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)
||Rogers, Keith Jr
|Planning & Development Review
|Fire & Emergency Services
|Community Wealth Building
|Minority Business Development
& Community Facilities