Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Rights & Responsibilities: The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities
of the Virginia Department of Forestry under the Virginia Freedom of Information
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
Your FOIA Rights
- You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records,
- You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records
be estimated in advance.
- 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 the Virginia Department of Forestry
Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) prefers that you request records in writing by U.S. Mail, fax or e-mail. 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 request.
- 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 Virginia Department
of Forestry, nor does it require the Virginia Department of Forestry to create
a record that does not exist.
- You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by the
VDOF 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 e-mail 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.
FOIA Officer – To whom you may direct your request
To request records from the Virginia Department of Forestry, you may direct
your request to Andres Alvarez, Chief of Administration. He can be reached at Virginia Department of
Forestry, Fontaine Research Park, 900 Natural Resources Drive, Suite 800, Charlottesville
Virginia, 22903. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone: 434.220.9022. Fax: 434.296.2369.
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 e-mail, or by phone at 804.225.3056 or [toll free] 1.866.448.4100.
The Virginia Department of Forestry's Responsibilities in Responding to Your
- The Virginia Department of Forestry 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. VDOF office hours are Monday-Thursday, 7AM - 6PM.
- The reason behind your request for public records from the Virginia Department of Forestry is irrelevant, and we cannot ask you why you want the records before we respond to your request. FOIA does, however, allow the Virginia Department of Forestry to ask you to provide your name and legal address.
- FOIA requires that the Virginia Department of Forestry make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
- We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
- 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.
- 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.
- If it is practically impossible for the Virginia Department of Forestry 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.
- You may have to pay for the records that you request from the Virginia Department of Forestry. FOIA allows us to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests. 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.
- If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we may require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The five days that we have to respond
to your request does not include the time between when we ask for a deposit and when you respond.
- You may request that we estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested. 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.
- If you owe us money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the Virginia Department of Forestry may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.
Commonly used exemptions
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. The Virginia Department of Forestry commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:
- Agency Performance Scorecard
You can learn about the goals and objectives of the Virginia Department of Forestry and how we're achieving them.
- Auditor of Public Accounts.
The Auditor of Public Accounts is the independent auditor serving the Commonwealth of Virginia. This office developed the Commonwealth Data Point, a comprehensive database of the Commonwealth's financial transactions and demographics.
Last modified: Monday, 27-Jun-2016 12:05:57 EDT