Make a Public Records (FOIA) Request

Hanover County will respond to all requests for public records in compliance with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Sections 2.2-3700 through 2.2-3714 of the Code of Virginia and following this procedure. 

Receiving Requests

  • Requesters are encouraged to contact the department that maintains the requested records.
  • Requests involving Board of Supervisors records or records from multiple departments should be directed to the FOIA Officer or one of the departments involved.
  • Requests do not have to be in writing and do not have to refer to “FOIA.”
  • Any request for public records (any writing or recording in any format including handwritten notes, typewritten documents, paper records, electronic files, text messages, photographs, audio recordings, video recordings prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business) is a FOIA request and must be treated as such.  All public records are presumed open unless exempt from FOIA or prohibited from disclosure by law.
  • Requester must provide legal name and address.  It is helpful to also obtain their telephone number and email address.
  • If requested records are not in the County’s possession but in the possession of the School Board, a constitutional officer, or some other government agency, notify requester and provide contact information if possible.

Evaluating Requests

The staff member receiving the request reviews it and routes it as quickly as possible to the department(s) most likely to have the requested records.  The response will be coordinated by the department head or designee or the FOIA Officer, who first does an initial evaluation

  1.  Is it clear what is being requested? If not
à contact requester for clarification

  2. 
Does it request public records? If not à contact County Attorney’s office for assistance
                  -
Distinguish public records request from asking questions/requesting information

  3. 
Do the records exist? If not à letter stating records aren’t in County’s possession

  4. 
Does any exemption apply? à contact County Attorney’s office

  5. 
Can staff process in under 60 minutes?  If not à provide estimate to requester

  6. 
Does staff need more than 5 days to process?  If so à need 7 more days letter

Determining Costs

  • Under FOIA, the County may charge a requester a reasonable amount for time spent accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records, not to exceed the County’s actual cost.
  • Whenever possible, records are to be provided at no cost to the requester. 
  • Actual costs are determined by multiplying the hours of staff time by the hourly rate (excluding benefits) of the employee(s) processing the request, and adding any supply costs (such as photocopy costs, cost of thumb drive or disk, etc.).  Charges for the first 60 minutes of personnel time and the first 20 photocopies per request are generally waived, with these exceptions:
    1. After the fifth request in a calendar year from the same requestor, charges for the first 60 minutes and first 20 photocopies will no longer be waived;
    2. If the total charge for any response is more than $200, charges for the first 60 minutes of personnel time are not waived.
Charges are as follows:

 

Supply

Cost

  • Paper copy reproduction – first 20 pages 8 ½” x 11”
  • Standard letter postage
  • Additional supplies under $5.00

Charge waived for 5 requests per calendar year

  • Copies/files transmitted by e-mail

No charge

  • Paper copy reproduction - pages over 20 pages 8 ½” x 11”

$ .25/page (do not count first 20 pages)

  • Paper copy reproduction - any size other than 8 ½” x 11”
  • Data CD, flash drive, other electronic storage device
  • Postage greater than standard letter postage
  • Additional supplies over $5.00 (no charge for first $5.00)
  • Supplies from outside vendor

County’s actual cost

 

Personnel

Cost

  • First 60 minutes

Charge is waived for 5 requests per calendar year and for responses in which the total cost is under $200.  After 5 requests from the same requestor in one calendar year or for responses in which the total cost exceeds $200, the personnel cost is applied.

  • Any time over 60 minutes

County’s actual personnel cost (hourly rate not including benefits of staff member performing task)

  • Personnel charges from outside vendor

County’s actual cost

 

  • If there are costs, staff must develop an estimate and provide it to the requester for approval before proceeding with the request.  Do not process the request until requester has agreed to the estimate. The 5 day response period is tolled from the time staff provides an estimate until requester approves the estimate.
  • If staff estimates that costs will be under $200, staff provides an invoice for costs with the requested records. Invoices must be paid within 30 days of receipt.
  • If staff estimates that costs will exceed $200, a deposit will be required prior to processing the request. The 5 day response period is tolled from the time staff requests the deposit until requester pays the deposit.
  • Before responding to a new request, the County requires payment of any amount owed for previous requests that remain unpaid for 30 days or more.
  • The County charges for staff time to review and redact records, but cannot charge for attorney review/redaction.
  • Costs must be reasonable.  As a general rule, record searching and review should be performed by the lowest paid staff member available and qualified to perform the task.
  • Waiver or reduction of costs may be appropriate in certain situations.  Any such waiver must be approved by the County FOIA officer.

Responding to Requests

A. Who Responds

  • If a request is for records from only one department, that department head or his/her designee coordinates the search and responds to the request, with the assistance of the County FOIA Officer and/or County Attorney’s office, if necessary.
  • If a request is for records from multiple departments, the request will be coordinated by either one of the involved department heads or the County FOIA Officer.  It’s important to make it clear early on who will be responsible for coordinating the response.
  • Requests for records from the Board of Supervisors will be handled by the County FOIA Officer.
  • The County Attorney’s office will assist with any legal questions and may assist with drafting responses when necessary.

B. Email Archive Searches

  • If a request requires searching multiple email accounts, IT will perform the search based on parameters and key words provided by the staff member responding to the request.
  • If a request only requires emails from one or a small number of staff, staff members whose emails are being sought may search their own email archives, or IT can perform the search.

C. Review of Records

  • The department providing the records reviews the records to determine which records are responsive to the request.  Records which are not responsive are not provided.

D. Withholding Records and Redaction of Records

  • Certain types of records and information are exempt from disclosure under FOIA, and release of certain records/information is prohibited by other laws.
  • For questions about whether records or portions of records can or should be withheld or redacted, consult the County Attorney’s office. 

E. Format of Responses

  • Documents should be converted to pdf before providing to requester.
  • If documents are in electronic format only, they must be either printed on paper, emailed to requester, or copied onto an electronic storage device to be provided to requester.  (County’s IT Security & Use Policy prohibits viewing on County computer by non-County staff.)
  • Records must be saved on new, blank disk or thumb drive.  Records may not be saved on electronic storage device provided by requester.  (Use of outside device violates County’s IT Security & Use Policy.)

F. Record Keeping                                                                               

All requests and final responses shall be forwarded to [email protected]

 

For More Information Contact

County Administrator's Office
c/o Tom Harris, County FOIA Officer
P.O. Box 470
7516 County Complex Road
Hanover, VA 23069
804-365-6005
Email