Virginia Freedom of Information Act – Rights and Responsibilities
The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of Wytheville Community College (WCC) 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 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 narrowly.
You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both.
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 Wytheville Community College
- You may request records by U.S. Mail, fax, 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 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 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 WCC, nor does it require WCC to create a record that does not exist.
- You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by WCC 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.
WCC 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.
The public records the WCC maintains include, but are not limited to personnel records, scholastic records, contracts, and records related to academic programs. The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. WCC routinely withholds records subject to the following exemptions:
- Personnel records (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(1)).
- Scholastic records (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.4(1)).
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(2)) or attorney work product (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(3)).
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(12)).
WCC will invoke the personnel and scholastic records exemptions to protect the privacy of its employees and students. The WCC will invoke the contract negotiations exemption whenever it applies to protect WCC’s bargaining position and negotiating strategy.
To request records from Wytheville Community College (WCC) or ask questions about requesting records, you may contact:
Crystal Cregger, Vice President of Finance and Administration
1000 East Main Street
Wytheville VA 24382
(276) 223-4762 – Phone
(800) 468-1195 ext. 4762 (toll free outside Wythe County)
(276) 223-4778 – FAX