Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests
Your FOIA Rights
Under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (§2.2-3700 of the Code of Virginia) citizens have the right to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both. A public record is any writing (paper or electronic file) or recording (audio, video or other format) that is prepared or owned by, or is in the possession of a public body, 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.
Although requests are not required to be made in writing, written requests are easier to track and are less likely to be misunderstood. For these reasons, staff suggest that FOIA requests for Surry County General Government and the Surry County Board of Supervisors should be submitted in writing by mail, by fax, or by email to the County Administrator's Office and should list specific information or documents desired, as well as the format for the return of the information (i.e. copies of records, electronic files, etc.). You are not required to state why you are requesting the records.
Please be aware that there may be a fee charged (see costs section below) for staff time and copies produced; therefore, citizens may request that charges for these items be estimated in advance. In the event that staff have questions regarding your request, please cooperate with our efforts to clarify, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement when accommodating a large request. Therefore, it is important that you include your contact information in your request.
Violation of Rights
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. You may also contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion. The FOIA Council may be contacted by calling 804-225-3056 or (toll-free) 866-448-4100 or by emailing the FOIA Council.
County's Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request
Surry County will respond to your request within five working days of receipt. "day one" is considered to be the first day after your request is received, and the five-day period does not include weekends or holidays. The County does require that you include your name and legal address in your request. FOIA requires that staff respond to your request within the five-day time period in one of the following ways:
- Providing you with the records that you requested in their entirety.
- Providing you with a written response in the event that the records you requested are subject to a specific statutory exemption. The written response must identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld as well as the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows us to withhold the records.
- Providing you with some of the requested records while withholding other records. If only a portion of the entire record is subject to an exemption, only that portion will be withheld; the County is required to provide you with the remainder of the record. You will also receive a written response stating the reason a portion of the record was withheld and the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows those records to be withheld.
- Providing you with a written response informing you that the records you requested cannot be found or do not exist. However, if we know that another public body has the records you are requesting, we are required to provide you with contact information for that public entity.
- Providing you with a written response informing you that it is practically impossible for the County to respond to your request within the five-day period and explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This allows the County an additional seven working days to respond to your request (a total of 12 working days). If your request of for a large number of records and staff are unable to provide these records within the 12 working days without disrupting their organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request. FOIA does require that staff make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the production of the records before we may petition the court for an extension.
Costs of Requesting FOIA Records
You may be requested to pay for the records that you request. FOIA allows the County to charge for the actual costs of responding to your FOIA request including staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. Charges can, and should be, requested in advance pursuant to the Code of Virginia 2.2-3704.
In the event that costs of supplying the records exceed $200, we may require that you make a deposit 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.) Costs are expected to be paid upon receipt of the records.
Types of Records
The County and its Departments generally maintain Personnel records pertaining to employees and officials of the County, records of Contracts which the County has entered into, Land Development Records and Inspections (building, zoning and environmental), Performance Surety Agreements, Building Plans, Utility Plans, Site Plans and Environmental Plans, and Financial Documents.
The Code of Virginia allows a public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Following is a list of commonly used exemptions:
- Personnel records (§ 2.2-3705.1 (1) of the Code of Virginia)
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege (§ 2.2-3705.1 (2)) or attorney work product (§ 2.2-3705.1 (3))
- Vendor proprietary information (§ 2.2-3705.1 (6))
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (§ 2.2-3705.1 (12))
A complete list of exemptions can be found in section 2.2-3705.1 of the Code of Virginia (Exclusions to application of chapter; exclusions of general application to public bodies).
To request records from the Surry County Board of Supervisors or County Government, please contact:
Additional Public Information Officers
Public Information Officers for the following offices may be contacted directly: