Requesting Public Records (FOIA)

As part of our commitment to open and accountable government, the City of Alexandria wants you to understand how we handle requests for public records under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Page updated on Jun 1, 2016 at 2:06 PM

As part of our commitment to open and accountable government, the City of Alexandria wants you to understand how we handle requests for public records under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

What Records Are Available to the Public?

Existing records prepared by or in the possession of a public body or its officers or employees in the ordinary transaction of public business. All public records are presumed to be open and are withheld only if a specific exemption applies. You will be notified if any requested records are being withheld and the reason for the withholding of any records, including the appropriate authority (law or code section) which permits the City to withhold such records. Although the City strives to assist you as much as possible, FOIA does not require that the City create records that do not already exist or answer general questions.

How Do I Request a Public Record?

You may request a record by any means, although it is helpful to put your request in writing. 

What Information Do I Need to Provide in Order to Make a Public Records Request?

The City asks that the name and address of the requestor be provided so that it can be determined to whom to send the information, but also so that the City can determine whether the person requesting the information is entitled to request records under the law. Your request must also be reasonably specific so that the records you are seeking can be identified and located.

When Can I Expect My Request to be Processed?

Within five days after receiving your request (not including weekends or City holidays). If it is not practically possible to respond to your request within five working days, you will be promptly notified and the City will have an additional seven working days.

How Will I Receive the Records I Request?

You may request records in any format used by the City, such as paper, e-mail or electronic means. The City can provide the records requested to you by mail or electronic mail, or you can arrange to personally retrieve copies of the records. 

Will I Have to Pay for the Records?

The City may charge for any requested records. The City is permitted to charge only for the actual costs of responding to your request. You may request that the City tell you in advance what the anticipated costs will be for supplying the records. If the estimated costs exceed $200, you may be required to pay a deposit (not to exceed the amount of the estimate) before processing your request. Additionally, if you owe the City money from a previous request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the City will require you to pay the past-due bill before processing any subsequent records requests.

A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records.  No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining public 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.  All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia. 

When Can a Request Be Denied?

Records requests can be denied based upon the law which exempts the disclosure of records to the public. Examples of some records which would be withheld by a public body: records subject to attorney/client privilege; vendor proprietary information; personnel records; and records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract.  Criminal history records and offense/incident reports and supplemental reports are withheld to the extent permitted under the law.

Who is the City's FOIA Officer?

The City’s FOIA Officer is: 
Christina Zechman Brown
City Attorney’s Office
301 King Street, Suite 1300
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Telephone: 703.746.3750

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