Citizen Rights and Responsibilities
Virginia Freedom of Information Act
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act, or “FOIA” (located at § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia), guarantees citizens of Virginia access to public records held by public bodies, officials, and employees. Public records include paper records, electronic filings, video or any records within other electronic formats. The types of public records held by Prince George County include, but are not limited to:
1. Contracts made by the County;
2. Board of Supervisors’ meeting minutes;
3. County department and employee records;
4. Billing and purchasing records;
5. Police/fire records; and
6. Financial data related to revenue and expenditures.
To ask questions concerning FOIA record requests or if you are unsure if the County has certain records you seek, please contact:
6602 Courts Drive, 3rd Floor
P.O. Box 68
Prince George, VA 23875
Phone: (804) 722-8685
Fax: (804) 733-2539
Hours: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM – Monday through Friday
In addition, the County will accept requests for records orally or in writing when made to any County Department. You may also request records by mail, fax, or e-mail and you do not have to give any reason why you want the records.
The County generally has five working days to respond to any request, and if it is not possible to fulfill your request within this time, the County can request a seven working day extension.
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 phone at (804) 225-3056, toll free at (866) 448-4100, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Citizen Rights and Responsibilities
Citizens have the right to inspect or receive copies of public records, the right to receive in advance an estimate of copying costs and you may go to the Prince George Court to require compliance with the FOIA by the County. The obligation to provide access to existing records does not necessarily mean answering general questions or creating a record that does not exist.
Exemptions to FOIA
The Code of Virginia allows certain records to be withheld from public disclosure. The County commonly withholds records including, but not limited to:
1. Personnel records containing individually identifiable information (§ 2.2-3705.1(1) of the Code of Virginia);
2. Records subject to attorney-client privilege (§ 2.2-3705.1(2));
3. Vendor proprietary information (§ 2.2-3705.1(6));
4. Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (§ 2.2-3705.1(12)); and
5. Certain police records (§ 2.2-3706(B)).
The policy of Prince George County is to invoke FOIA exemptions in order to protect the privacy of county employees, officials, and citizens; to protect the county’s bargaining position in negotiations; and to protect the integrity of ongoing police investigations.
1. The County must respond within five working days.
2. The County will:
a. supply you with all documents or provide access to view documents without making copies; or
b. withhold all or some of the documents and provide an exemption for the withholding; or
c. inform you if another government entity has the documents; or
d. seek additional time to respond.
The County does not have a fixed charge for accessing or searching for requested records because the actual cost of responding to a records request, which may include, but is not limited to, copies, postage, and/or a thumb drive. Charges for accessing or searching for requested records are based on the hourly rate of the person searching for the records. To keep costs down, the County attempts to use the lowest paid staff members capable of retrieving the requested records in responding to a request. However, in situations where a staff member is required to search through his or her own email and files, the staff member will search for the requested records and the search charge will be based on that employee's hourly rate.
The County does not charge for records requests where the cost is de minimis, or less than five dollars ($5.00). other than de minimis records requests, the County does not grant waivers for the cost of a records request under any circumstances.
[Excerpt from State Code:] NOTE: 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. Prior to conducting a search for records, the public body shall notify the requester in writing that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquire of the requester whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.