Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006

Freedom of Information Advisory Council

June 12, 2006

The Freedom of Information Advisory Council (the Council) held its first meeting of 2006 on June 12, 2006. The Council welcomed its newest member, Courtney Malveaux, who is the designee of the Attorney General. The meeting was an organizational meeting to adopt the Council's work plan for 2006.

2006 Legislative Update

The General Assembly passed a total of 16 bills amending the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2006, including:

  • SB 76, recommended by the Council, which concerns the release of certain records under the PPTA and the PPEA.
  • SB 5011, passed during the 2006 Special Session I, which concerns the release of certain records and corresponding closed meetings under the PPTA and PPEA.
  • Other bills which create five new record exemptions to FOIA, add three new closed meetings, and amend existing provisions of FOIA.

A more detailed report of the bills passed during the 2006 Sessions is available on the Council's website.


The existing PPEA/PPTA Subcommittee and the Electronic Meetings Subcommittee were both continued for 2006 and a "Fifth Response" Subcommittee was created. During 2005, the Council considered whether to add a "fifth response" within FOIA to address situations where a public body receives a records request for records that do not exist or cannot be found. FOIA currently does not specify what response a public body is to provide in such a situation. Council members Fifer (chair), Bryan, Griffith, and Malveaux were appointed to examine this issue. More information regarding Council subcommittees is available on the Council’s website.

Other Business

Staff advised the Council of the concerns of the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) as they relate to conducting open meetings under FOIA. Susan Prokop, chair of SILC, wrote to the Council expressing concern that Virginia's open meeting laws have an adverse impact on the ability of people with disabilities to participate on SILC. Specifically, SILC would like the ability to conduct meetings through teleconference without meeting the requirement for a physical quorum at one main location. The Council added this issue to the work plan of the Electronic Meetings Subcommittee.

Senator Houck and Delegate Griffith presented a framed copy of SJR 173 (2006) to Frosty Landon, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government (VCOG) commending VCOG on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.

Of Note

Staff briefed the Council on the case of William F. Shaw v. John T. Casteen, et al, decided on April 13, 2006, by the Supreme Court of Virginia. Information regarding the briefing, discussion, and recommendations by the Council regarding the case may be found on the Council’s website.

Staff advised the Council that Virginia's FOIA laws rated 5 on a scale of 7 by the Marion Brechner Center Citizen Access Project at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications for FOIA laws that provide noncriminal penalties for violation by government officials of open records law. Virginia is one of only six states that were rated as high as 5.

SJR 170 (2006) designates March 16, in 2006 and in each succeeding year, as Freedom of Information Day in Virginia.

On March 10, 2006, in conjunction with the Virginia Press Association, the Virginia Association of Broadcasters, and VCOG, the Council sponsored a "Sunshine Reception" in the General Assembly Building to help kick off Sunshine Week that began on March 13, 2006. The reception was attended by approximately 85 people, including 25 legislators, and provided attendees breakfast, sunshine cookies, and open government bracelets.

For the period December 1, 2005 through May 31, 2006, Council staff responded to 874 informal requests for assistance—437 by government officials, 333 from citizens, and 104 from media representatives. Additionally, the Council issued six formal written opinions-—four to citizens and two to government officials.

Public Comment

Craig Merritt, Esq., representing the Virginia Press Association, advised the Council of the provisions of HB 852 (2006), which concerns hospital authorities and attempts to standardize powers and duties of hospital authorities in Virginia. The bill, as introduced, contained broad FOIA exemptions for records and meetings of hospital authorities, but these provisions were removed from the bill by the patron after discussions with the Virginia Press Association and other interested parties. Mr. Merritt questioned whether another bill might again be offered by the patron to exempt hospital authority records from the provisions of FOIA, and he felt that it would be preferable to have the issues aired before the Council to ensure meaningful dialogue. The Council acknowledged the need to appoint a subcommittee to examine the issues if future legislation is anticipated.

Future Meetings

Council meetings in 2006 will be held on August 23 and October 11 in Richmond at 1:00 p.m. in the General Assembly Building. Another meeting in November or December may be scheduled if needed.

The Hon. R. Edward Houck

For information, contact:
Maria J.K. Everett
Executive Director


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006

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