Rights & Responsibilities:
The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of VMFA
under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act
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 includes all writings and recordings that consist of letters, words or numbers, or their equivalent, set down by handwriting, typewriting, printing, photography, magnetic impulse, optical or magneto-optical form, mechanical or electronic recording or other form of data compilation, however stored, and regardless of physical form or characteristics, 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.
You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both.
A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records and shall make all reasonable efforts to supply the requested records at the lowest possible cost. 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. Prior to conducting a search for records, the public body shall notify the requester in writing that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquire of the requester whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.
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.
Making a Request for records from VMFA
You may request records by U.S. Mail, 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 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 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 VMFA, nor does it require VMFA to create a record that does not exist.
You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by VMFA 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, but we may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that we understand what records you are seeking.
Please direct requests for records from VMFA to Stephanie Cooperstein at FOIAOfficer@vmfa.museum.
You may also mail your requests to:
200 N. Arthur Ashe Boulevard
Richmond, Virginia 23220-4007
If you have questions concerning requesting records from VMFA, please contact us by phone at 804.340.1500. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 804.225.3056 or (toll free) 1.866.448.4100.