FOIA requests don’t always come cheap
Garrey Curry: We can charge more ‘if something very onerous comes along’
Finding more of its time consumed by Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the city of Charlottesville has been floating a policy that would charge public records requests in 15-minute increments once an employee has spent 15 minutes assembling materials.
The requester would then have to pay the same salary rate of the employee filling their request.
Until now there hasn’t been an expanded FOIA payment policy in Charlottesville, where one official this month drew attention to an “immense” number of FOIA filings in the last two years.
Given its tiny size, Rappahannock County doesn’t have near the volume of FOIA requests, which in many cases requires a government to produce everything from paper records and electronic files to audio and video recordings.
Rappahannock’s FOIA policy, which is found on the county government’s website, already warns FOIA requesters: “Do you want a cost estimate before we reply?”
“Normally we are liberal with the amount of staff time committed before we charge, but we can if something very onerous comes along,” county Administrator Garrey W. Curry tells the Rappahannock News.
According to the county FOIA policy, “All charges for the supplying of re
quested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen . . . If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we will require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request . . . If you owe us money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the county will require payment of the past-due bill before we will respond to your new FOIA request.”
The county government must respond within five working days of a submitted FOIA request, not including weekends and holidays. If it’s impossible for a particular Rappahannock office or department to respond within the five-day period, it must state the reasons in writing, which would then automatically allow the county seven additional working days to respond.
“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,” the county points out.
FOIA Officers for Rappahannock County offices or departments include Connie Compton, Sheriff; Mary Graham, Commissioner of the Revenue; Art Goff, Commonwealth's Attorney; Debra Knick, Treasurer; Margaret Ralph, Circuit Court Clerk; Jennifer Parker, Department of Social Services; Ron Makela, Board of Zoning Appeals; David Shaffer, Library Board of Trustees; and Garrey Curry, County Administrator and FOIA Officer for the Board of Supervisors and county functions not otherwise listed.