VIRGINIA FOIA OFFICER REQUIRED FOR MOST PUBLIC BODIES
As of July 1, 2016, the Virginia Freedom of Information Act mandates most public bodies—including cities, counties, and towns with more than 250 residents—to appoint a “FOIA officer.”
Virginia FOIA officers have the duty “to serve as a point of contact for members of the public in requesting public records and to coordinate the public body’s compliance” with Virginia FOIA. These FOIA officers will have to undergo annual training. Each public body will have to disclose the name and contact information of their FOIA officer on request and on their website.
This is a great opportunity for public bodies. By having a single, well-trained individual supervise FOIA compliance, public bodies can reduce the risk of costly FOIA violations. It also is a tremendous responsibility. Many localities do not understand FOIA, and many do not have written FOIA policies. FOIA officers can expect to be called to account for FOIA violations by others in their organizations.
While there are many resources for FOIA officers, the FOIA attorneys of Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C. can help you establish a strong FOIA policy consistent with the requirements of the law. We can determine the particular needs of your office to craft a plan that works in your community. FOIA lawsuits are expensive for public bodies, even if they win. Bringing our FOIA team on board for a limited engagement may be much cheaper, and it will help ensure you have answers to all the questions the citizens may ask.
Read Virginia House Bill 818 (2016), requiring FOIA officers.