Pulaski, Virginia - A community of opportunity in Virginia's New River Valley
Freedom of Information Act

The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities

of the Town of Pulaski under the

Virginia Freedom of Information Act

 

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), found in Virginia Code § 2.2-3700 et seq., 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 purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that its provisions be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.

 

Requester’s FOIA Rights

  • You have the right to request to inspect and/or receive copies of public
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  • You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in
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  • If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in general district or circuit court to compel compliance with Alternatively, you may contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.

 

Making a Request for Records from the Town of Pulaski

  • You may request records by mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the FOIA does not require that your request be in writing, nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA. Nevertheless, the Town would prefer requests to be submitted, in writing, on the Town’s FOIA Request form.
     

    • 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 the Town a clear statement of what records you are requesting. However, the Town cannot refuse to respond to your FOIA request if you elect to not put it in writing.
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  • Your request must identify the records you are seeking with “reasonable ” 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 the Town can identify and locate the records that you are seeking.
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  • You may only request existing records or FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to general questions about the work of the Town and its public officers, officials, and employees, nor does it require the Town to create a record that does not exist.
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  • You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by the Town in the regular course of
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  • 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
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  • If the Town has 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 We may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that we understand what records you are seeking.
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  • The Town of Pulaski shall comply with the following procedures for processing a FOIA
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  • FOIA requests should be directed to the FOIA Officer in the Town Manager’s Office, as the centralized receiving center for FOIA request

 

§ By mail: Town Manager’s Office

ATTN: Trish Cruise, FOIA Officer

P.O. Box 660

42 First Street NW

Pulaski, VA 24301

 

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Fax:

 

(540) 994-8699

 

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Phone:

 

(540) 994-8600

 

  • E-mail: tcruise@pulaskitown.org
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  • After receipt of the request, the FOIA Officer will direct the request to the appropriate Town departments, the Town Council, and other public officials (as appropriate) within one (1) business day.
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  • Department Heads will implement and follow a process for providing FOIA requests to staff in his/her department for
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  • If FOIA requests are initially received by any Town department, official, or employee, other than the Town Manager’s Office, the request shall immediately be forwarded to the Town Manager’s Office to follow the same centralized process detailed
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  • If you have questions regarding accessing records from the Town, please contact the FOIA Officer, Trish Cruise, at (540) 994-8600.
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    o In addition, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA. The Advisory Council may be contacted by email at foiacouncil@leg.state.va.us, or by phone at (804) 225-3056 or [toll free] 1-866-448- 4100.
     

Town of Pulaski’s Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request

 

  • The Town must respond to your request within five (5) working days of receiving “Day One” is considered the day after your request is received. The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays.
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  • 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 the Town responds to your FOIA does, however, allow the Town to ask you to provide your name and legal address.
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  • FOIA requires that the Town make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day period:
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  • Provide you with the records that you have requested in their
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  • Withhold all of the records that you have requested, because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory If all of the records are being withheld, the Town will send you a response in writing. That writing will identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and state the specific section of the Virginia Code that allows the Town to withhold the records.
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  • Provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other The Town cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, the Town may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld, and will provide you with the remainder of the record. The Town will provide you with a written response stating the specific section of the Virginia Code that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
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  • Inform 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, the Town will include contact information for the other public body in the Town’s response to you.
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  • If it is practically impossible for the Town to respond to your request within the five-day period, the Town will state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response This will allow the Town seven (7) additional working days, for a total of twelve (12) days, to respond to your request.
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  • If you make a request for a very large number of records, and the Town feels that it cannot provide the records to you within twelve (12) working days without disrupting its other organizational responsibilities, the Town may petition the circuit court for additional time to respond to your request. Prior to petitioning the court, FOIA requires that the Town make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the time for producing the records.
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  • The Town of Pulaski shall comply with the following procedures for responding to a FOIA request:
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  • Staff, within each applicable department, will provide all responsive records to his/her Department H
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  • All Department Heads shall review all submitted, responsive records, ensuring all information required and allowed to be exempted, redacted, or withheld under the FOIA statutes has been excluded or redacted. The Department Head will also appropriately document any information redacted or withheld in accordance with the FOIA statutes.
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  • The Department Heads will transmit all records to the Town Manager’s Office for final coordination. The Town Manager’s Office will then transmit all records to the
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  • All Town Council members and other public officials/officers shall respond directly to the Town Manager’s Office.
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  • If at any time during the process a Department Head or the Town Manager’s Office has any legal questions about the records, responsiveness, exemptions, or information that shall/may be withheld or redacted, he/she may consult with the Town
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  • Delays in responding to a FOIA request.
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  • If staff or a Department Head needs clarification regarding a FOIA request, and the ambiguity can be cleared up by communication with the requester, the Department Head or the Town Manager’s Office shall contact the requester.
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  • If the Department Head determines that he/she or his/her staff will not be able to respond to a FOIA request within the statutory five (5) working days, he/she shall communicate with the Town Manager’s Office the need for more time and approximately how long the department needs to respond to the
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  • The Town Manager’s Office shall communicate the need for an extension in writing, invoking the statutory additional seven (7) working days.
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  • If greater than seven (7) days is necessary, the Town Manager’s Office shall try to reach a reasonable agreement with the requester for more If a reasonable agreement cannot be reached, the Town Manager’s Office shall contact the Town Attorney to petition the circuit court for additional time.
    • Please see the section below about cost and deposits with regards to further possible delays in responding.

 

Costs

  • Pursuant to Virginia Code 2.2-3704.1, a public body may make reasonable charges notto exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. 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. All charges for the supply of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection F of Virginia Code § 2.2-3704.
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  • You may have to pay for the records that you request from the Town of Pulaski. FOIA allows the Town to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA This would include items like staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. It cannot include general overhead costs.
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  • If the Town estimates that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, the Town will require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your The five (5) days that the Town has to respond to your request does not include the time between when the Town asks for a deposit and when you respond.
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  • All deposits shall be paid by check or money order made payable to the Town of Pulaski and delivered to the Town Manager’s Checks and money orders will be held and only deposited once the request is complete. Any outstanding balance due must be paid before or at the time the responding records are released. Any balance remaining from the deposit shall be returned to the requester.
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  • You may request that the Town estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have 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. The statutory time limits provided do not begin to run until you give the Town permission to proceed, approving the estimate or by paying the deposit as required above.
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  • If you owe the Town money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the Town of Pulaski may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA
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  • Town Council members, public officers/officials, and Department Heads shall have discretion to determine if his/her individual time spent responding to a FOIA request will be charged to the If the member, official, or officer chooses not to charge for his/her time, he/she shall communicate that determination to the Town Manager’s Office when providing the requested records.
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  • The fee charged for responses by Council members and public officials/officers shall be based upon the individuals’ pay as a Town official and shall not take into account any non-Town His/her time shall be charged based on the following formula:
     
    (FOIA response fee) = (Time to respond in hours) X (Annual compensation)
     
    (52 weeks 40 hr/wk)
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  • The fees charged for Council members, Department Heads, and staff response time shall be based on the actual amount of time individually spent responding to the FOIA
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  • Time of officers, Department Heads, and staff who are paid hourly, shall be charged based on the following formula:
     
    (FOIA response fee) = (Time to respond in hours) X (Hourly pay)
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  • Time of officers, Department Heads, and staff who are salary, shall be charged based on the following formula:
     
    (FOIA response fee) = (Time to respond in hours) X (Annual salary)
     
    (52 weeks 40 hr/wk)
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  • The Town will take all reasonable precautions to keep staff time and cost at a minimum, including using lower paid staff members capable of retrieving records to respond to a However, in situations where a staff member is required to search through his/her own email and files contained on his/her individual Town computer or other device, it shall not be unreasonable for that individual staff member to retrieve the requested records and charge a FOIA response fee corresponding to his/her salary.
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  • Fees charged for supplies, duplications, shall be as follows:
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    § Copies $0.05 per page (black/white)

    $0.15 per page (color)

     

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    Compact Disc

     

    $.30 per C.D.

     

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    Mail

     

    Actual cost to mail the request

 

Commonly used Exemptions

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

  • Records subject to attorney-client privilege (Virginia Code 2.2-3705.1(2)) or attorney work product (Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.1(3))
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  • Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (Virginia Code 2.2-3705.1(12))
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  • Appraisals and cost estimates of real property subject to a proposed purchase, sale, or lease, prior to the completion of such purchase, sale, or lease (Virginia Code 2.2- 3705.1(8))
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  • Personnel records (Virginia Code 2.2-3705.1(1))

 
For a full list of exemptions, see Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.1 et seq.
 

Policy regarding the use of Exemptions

  • It is the Town of Pulaski’s general policy to exempt any and all records that are allowed to be exempted, redacted, or excluded from production by
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  • Any record exempt under the Virginia Code, which the custodian of the record has the option of disclosing, shall not be