AG: Localities can’t use COVID-19 to avoid FOIA requests

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Attorney General Mark Herring issued an advisory opinion Monday explaining that localities cannot “modify or indefinitely extend the deadlines” for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.

“The time limits for responding to requests for records in VFOIA remain in place and must be complied with even during the current emergency,” Herring wrote, responding to to a request from Del. Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville), who had sought advice from the attorney general on the application of a local ordinance set forth by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in March “extending indefinitely” the deadline for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The Board of Supervisors updated the ordinance in September to say the deadline “may be extended to the earliest date thereafter practicable.”

The new ordinance took effect Oct. 1.

Hudson filed the request with Herring at the behest of Charlottesville Tomorrow and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

A report in Charlottesville Tomorrow indicates that the county had exceeded the state-mandated FOIA response deadline on at least six requests.

“VFOIA calls for transparency in government and establishes specific time limits for responding to requests for records,” Herring noted in his advisory opinion, adding that “even during a state of emergency, ‘the requirements of VFOIA, open government, and transparency remain critically important.’”

Story by Chris Graham


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