Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

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The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of the Town of Blacksburg under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOlA) is set out in § 2.2-3700 et seq., of the Virginia Code. It guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.

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 Town of Blacksburg

  • You may request records by 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 want.
  • 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 about the work of the town, nor does it require the town to create a record that does not exist.
  • 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 email 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, and 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 contact the town's FOIA officer at 540-443-1090 or You may also contact the officer with questions you have concerning requesting records from the town. You may also contact a department directly to request records.

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 email at, or by phone at 804-225-3056 or [toll free] 1-866-448-4100.

The Town of Blacksburg's responsibilities in responding to your request

  • The town 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 town is irrelevant, and you do not have to state why you want the records before we respond to your request. But, as a practical matter, sometimes it can make it easier to respond to your request if staff understands your goals. 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:
  1. The town provides you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
  2. The town withholds 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 town must send you a response in writing. That writing must identify the approximate volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows the town to withhold the records.
  3. The town provides some of the records that you have requested, but withholds other records. You must be provided with a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
  4. The town informs you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist, (the town does not have the records you want). However, if the town knows that another public body has the requested records, it must include contact information for the other public body in its response to you.
  5. If it is practically impossible for the town to respond to your request within the five-day period, the town must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow seven additional working days to respond to your request, providing a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.
  • If you make a request for a very large number of records, and town staff cannot provide the records to you within 12 working days without disrupting other organizational responsibilities, the town may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request. However, FOIA requires that the town 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.


  • You may have to pay for the records that you request from the town. A public body may make reasonable charges that do not exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. The town cannot 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. 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 Virginia Code.
  • Calculation of copy charges without any labor costs:
    $.05 for black & white copies
    $.10 for color copies
  • If town staff estimates that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, you will have to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The five days that the town has to respond to your request does not include the time between when the deposit is requested and when you respond.
  • You may request that town staff 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 costs.
  • If you owe the town money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the town 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 town:

  • Personnel records concerning employees and officials of the town
  • Records of contracts that the town has entered into
  • Law enforcement records held by the police department
  • Land development records maintained by the planning and building department
  • Records of Town Council actions, such as contracts, ordinances, resolutions and minutes, in the town clerk's office. Archived Town Council minutes are available at Historic Archived Minutes
  • Records relating to public improvement projects held by the public works and the engineering and GIS departments

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:

Policy regarding the use of exemptions

  • The general policy of the town is to invoke the personnel records exemption in those instances where it applies to protect the privacy of employees and officials of the town.
  • The general policy of the town is to invoke the contract negotiations exemption and the purchase or disposition of real estate exemption whenever they apply to protect the town's bargaining position and negotiating strategy.
  • The general policy of the town is to invoke the investigative files exemption for applicable police records as necessary to protect the privacy of crime victims and witnesses and to avoid harming investigations or prosecutions.
  • The general policy of the town is not to release legal records exempt under § 2.2-3705.1 (2) or § 2.2-3705.1 (3).
  • Virginia law prohibits the release of tax records covered by Virginia Code § 58.1-3 from being disclosed.
  • The town reserves the right to utilize any exemption provided under the Freedom of Information Act.

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