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Web Policy - Freedom Of Information Act Policy

The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of the Department of Minority Business Enterprise (“DMBE”) under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3700 et seq.)

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.

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.

A Requestor’s FOIA Rights

Making a Request for records from the DMBE

  • 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.
  • 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 are seeking.
  • 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 DMBE, nor does it require the DMBE to create a record that does not exist.
  • You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by the DMBE in the regular course of business.
  • 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, but we may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that we understand what records you are seeking.
  • The DMBE’s Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request

  • The DMBE 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 DMBE is irrelevant, and we cannot ask you why you want the records before we respond to your request. FOIA does, however, allow DMBE to ask you to provide your name and legal address.
  • FOIA requires that DMBE make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
    1. We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
    2. We withhold 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, 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.
    3. 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.
    4. If it is practically impossible for the DMBE 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 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.
  • Costs

    Commonly used exemptions

    The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. The DMBE commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:

    To make a FOIA request, please submit your written request to the DMBE Director at 200-202 N. Ninth Street, 11th Floor, Richmond, Virginia 23219, or via facsimile at (804) 786-9736 or (804) 371-7359.

    You may also contact the DMBE’s Policy Analyst with any questions you may have concerning requesting records from the DMBE by calling (804) 786-6585. The Freedom of Information Advisory Council is also available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA. The Council may be contacted by e-mail at foiacouncil@leg.state.va.us, or by phone at (804) 225-3056 or [toll free] 1-866-448-4100.

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