Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007
Freedom of Information Advisory Council
September 10, 2007
The Freedom of Information Advisory Council (the Council) held its third meeting on June 6, 2007, to receive progress reports from two subcommittees. The Council also welcomed new Council member Dr. Sandra G. Treadway, Librarian of Virginia, who replaces Nolan Yelich, who retired from state service effective July 1, 2007. In addition, the Council heard from the University of Virginia (UVA) regarding a proposed exemption for certain donor records held by UVA.
Electronic Meeting Subcommittee
Also, the minutes must reflect the nature of the emergency and the fact that the meeting was held electronically. Additionally, the draft bill makes a technical amendment in the definition of "meeting" to include the provisions of § 2.2-3708.1 (added in 2007). Mr. Edwards moved that the full FOIA Council vote to recommend this draft, which was carried by unanimous vote.
on Electronic Meetings
The Council's strength lies in an independent forum for relevant topics and adopting a statement may give the appearance that the body has already determined limits on electronic meetings.
The Council voted on the statement of principles as a resolution of the Council. Because the vote was tied 4 to 4, the resolution did not pass and the statement of principles was not adopted.
Personal Identifying Information Subcommittee
The Personal Identifying Information Subcommittee has held three meetings to deliberate on the nine bills referred to it for study with Senator Edward Houck as chair. Two meetings were joint meetings with a subcommittee of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) to address two bills, House Bill 2821 (Sickles), concerning access to Social Security Numbers (SSNs), and Senate Bill 819 (Cuccinelli), concerning access to personal information including date of birth, social security number, driver's license number, bank account numbers, credit or debit card numbers, personal identification numbers, electronic identification codes, automated or electronic signatures, biometric data, or fingerprints.
The Personal Identifying Information Subcommittee also considered seven other bills and the issue of concealed carry handgun permits:
Craig Merritt, Virginia Press Association (VPA), suggested that further revision be made to the draft to keep personal information confidential, but to allow statistical information to be released. Senator Houck recommended that further consideration be postponed until the next Council meeting, which was agreed upon by the members. A draft concerning SSNs will also be prepared by the next full Council meeting.
UVA DISCLOSURE EXEMPTION
On behalf of University of Virginia, Robert Lockridge, Executive Assistant to the President for State Government Relations, presented draft legislation that would exempt certain donor records held by UVA from the mandatory disclosure requirements of FOIA. The proposed exemption would be added to § 2.2-3705.4. Mr. Lockridge noted that UVA is one of the most successful universities in the country in its fundraising efforts. In regard to donor records, Mr. Lockridge listed three confidentiality concerns:
Mr. Lockridge stated that not being able to promise anonymity to donors would lead to the erosion of donor confidence and a decrease in donations. As safeguards for public access, Mr. Lockridge pointed out that a requestor may obtain the total number of donors and total amount of donations, there would still be access to procurement records, the Auditor of Public Accounts would continue to have full access to all donation records, and UVA has two committees to ensure academic freedom and prevent undue influence from any anonymous donor, the Gift Policy and Gift Acceptance Committees. After further clarification that the exemption sought would still permit the disclosure of the amount, date, and purpose of a donation, Senator Houck opened the floor to public comment.
Jennifer Perkins, Spokesman for the Coalition for Open Government (VCOG), acknowledged that UVA made some good points, but that it is the university's choice to include foundation records in its files, thus subjecting foundation records to disclosure under FOIA. Ms. Perkins suggested the possibility of using a separate database for anonymous donors and leaving the main database completely open, noting that ideally the public should have the right to access both foundation and university records, especially in situations where a donor's name may be important.
Delegate Griffith noted that in the past there were many questions raised concerning the flow of money between foundations and universities. He asked whether the UVA approach was preferable to a foundation controlling all information regarding donations. Mr. Merritt noted that Delegate Griffith was correct, that in the late 1990s there had been an unsuccessful movement to open to public disclosure university foundation records. He explained that UVA and its Board of Visitors have chosen to maintain a commingled system of both private and public operations in its public database, and consequently, the database should be subject to the same presumption of openness as any other public record. Mr. Merritt stated that as a matter of public policy a donor should not make a gift anonymously to a public body, but foundations do provide a vehicle for these anonymous donations. Lynwood Butner, representing the Virginia Association of Broadcasters (VAB), reiterated that since UVA is a public entity, donations to the university should be subject to public scrutiny just as are campaign contributions.
Chairman Houck suggested, considering the many viewpoints expressed regarding the proposed exemption, that it would not be appropriate for the Council to take immediate action on the exemption. He suggested that interested parties should continue to meet and seek common ground regarding the issue and report on their efforts at the next Council meeting.
The next meeting of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is scheduled for December 3, 2007. Additional information on this meeting and other FOIA Council activities is available on the Council’s website.
Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007