Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
Rights & Responsibilities
The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of the Town of Altavista (“Town”) under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act
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.
- 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 Town of Altavista
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.
Note: 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.
You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by the Town 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, it is requested that you 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.
To request records from the Town, you may direct your request to the Town’s designated FOIA officer(s) listed below. They can be reached at: Town of Altavista, P.O. Box 420, 510 7th ST, Altavista, VA 24517, telephone: (434) 369-5001, fax: (434) 369-4369 or via email as indicated 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] 1-866-448-4100.
The Town of Altavista’s Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request
- The Town must respond to your request within five (5) 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 Town 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 Town to require you to provide your name and legal address.
- FOIA requires that the Town make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
- We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
- We withhold all the records that you have requested, because all the records are subject to a specific statutory exemption. If all 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If it is practically impossible for the Town 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.
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."
Types of records
The following is a general description of the types of records held by the Town:
- Personnel records concerning employees and officials of the Town
- Records of contracts which the Town has entered
- Records of meetings by the Town of Altavista Town Council, boards, committees, and commissions within the Town of Altavista
- Records of budgets, expenditures, and revenues of the Town of Altavista
- Records of departmental operations in the Town of Altavista
If you are unsure whether the Town has the record(s) you seek, you are welcome to contact the Town’s designated FOIA officer(s) listed below. They can be reached at: Town of Altavista, P.O. Box 420, 510 7th ST, Altavista, VA 24517, telephone: (434) 369-5001, fax: (434) 369-4369 or via email as indicated below.
Commonly used exemptions
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. The Town 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))
- Town Administrator’s working papers and correspondence - (§2.2-3705.7 (2)).
- Records recorded in or compiled exclusively for use in closed meetings - (§2.2-3705.1(5)).
- Records relating to police investigations and criminal record (§2.2-3706)
Policy regarding the use of exemptions
As a general policy, the Town will invoke, as it deems necessary, any exemption(s) afforded to it by law to protect those certain records, as noted above, from public disclosure.
For more information you can visit the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council website. This site includes additional information on Virginia FOIA regulations and a Public Comment Form (.docx) from the Virginia FOIA advisory Council you can use to review your experience.
Town Manager/FOIA Officer
Town of Altavista
P.O. Box 420
510 7th Street
Altavista, VA 24517
(434) 369-5001 ext. 102
Fax: (434) 369-4369
Contact Gary Shanaberger
Assistant Town Manager/FOIA Officer
Town of Altavista
P.O. Box 420
510 7th Street
Altavista, VA 24517
(434) 369-5001 ext. 110
Fax: (434) 369-4369
Contact Matt Perkins