Freedom of Information Requests
- What is the Freedom of Information Act?
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act - or FOIA, for short - is a law that guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees. It can be found in the Virginia Code - section 2.2-3700.
- What is a public record?
A public record is any writing or recording - regardless of whether it is a paper record, 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.
- What types of records does York County have?
The following is a general description of the types of records held by York County:
- Personnel records concerning employees and officials of York County
- Records of contracts which York County has entered into
- Financial records including receipts, bills, budget documents, revenues/expenditures, etc.
- Correspondence (letters, memoranda, emails)
- Building, planning, transportation and other community development records
- Agendas, agenda items, minutes and other records of the meetings of the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and other governmental bodies appointed by the Board of Supervisors
- Records of County departments concerning matters within each department's area of responsibility
- Tax and licensing records
If you are unsure whether York County has the record(s) you seek, please contact the FOIA Officer (see contact info on page).
- Are any records exempt from release to the public?
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. York County commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:
- Personnel records - Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1 (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)
- Vendor proprietary information - Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1 (6)
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded - Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1 (12)
- Working papers and correspondence of the County Administrator - Va. Code § 2.2-3705.7 (2)
- Tax records covered by Va. Code § 58.1-3
The general policy of York County is to:
- invoke the personnel records exemption in those instances where it applies in order to protect the privacy of employees and officials of York County.
- invoke the contract negotiations exemption whenever it applies in order to protect York County's bargaining position and negotiating strategy.
- invoke the attorney-client privilege and work product exemptions whenever they apply, to protect the confidentiality of legal advice and to preserve York County's litigation strategy.
The general policy of York County is for County officials to exercise their discretion in a reasonable manner when an exemption applies, weighting the public interest in inspecting the record, and the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the record.
The general policy of York County is to release any records when the reason or legal basis for withholding them no longer applies.
- How do I make a FOIA request?
- 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 York County, nor does it require York County to create a record that does not exist.
- You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by York County 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.
- What kind of response may I get from the County?
York County 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 reason behind your request for public records from York County is irrelevant, and you do not have to state why you want the records before we respond to your request. FOIA does, however, allow York County to require you to provide your name and legal address.
FOIA requires that York County 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.
- We inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist (we do not have the records you want). However, if we know that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for the other public body in our response to you.
- If it is practically impossible for York County 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 working 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.
- Is FOIA free or are there costs associated with 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 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.
- You may have to pay for the records that you request from York County. 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.
- Effective July 1, 2022 - Per Code of VA 2.2-3704 (F), public bodies are required to inform requesters that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed the actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying or searching for requested records, and shall ask the requester whether they wish to receive a cost estimate in advance of supplying the requested records. A cost estimate shall be provided if requested. If, after receiving the cost estimate, the requester would like the County to proceed with the records request, the staff time required to determine the cost estimate will be applied to the final amount due. If the requester does not respond to the County’s question within 30 days, the request will be deemed withdrawn. This provision allows you to know about any costs up front, or gives 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, York County may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.
- Who are the County's FOIA Officers?
To request records from York County (excluding the offices listed below), you may direct your request to:
Gail Whittaker, FOIA Officer
York County Public Affairs
Street address: 224 Ballard Street Yorktown VA 23690
Mailing address: P.O. Box 532 Yorktown VA 23690
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
To request records from the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office, you may direct your request to:
Captain Jeff Kerr
York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office
Street address: 301 Goodwin Neck Road Yorktown VA 23692
Mailing address: P.O. Box 99 Yorktown VA 23690
Phone: 757-890-3630 Fax: 757-890-3649
To request records from the York County Treasurer's Office, you may direct your request to:
York County Treasurer's Office
Street address: 120 Alexander Hamilton Boulevard Yorktown VA 23690
Mailing address: P.O. Box 251 Yorktown VA 23690
Phone: 757-890-3420 Fax: 757-890-3439
To request records from the York-Poquoson Clerk of Circuit Court, you may direct your request to:
Kristen N. Nelson, Clerk of Circuit Court
Street address: 300 Ballard Street Yorktown VA 23690
Mailing address: P.O. Box 371 Yorktown VA 23690
Phone: 757-890-3350 Fax: 757-890-3364
To request records from the York County Commissioner of the Revenue's Office, you may direct your request to:
Wendy Kurnas, Auditor
Commissioner of the Revenue's Office
Street address: 120 Alexander Hamilton Boulevard Yorktown VA 23690
Mailing address: P.O. Box 190 Yorktown VA 23690
Phone: 757-890-3383 Fax: 757-890-3389
York County's Policy
It is the policy of York County to facilitate public access to the official records of the County and to make such records available and to respond to requests for access in a timely fashion.
Under normal circumstances, department directors are authorized to grant requests received by their respective departments for official document inspection and/or copying by citizens. Official records shall be open to inspection and/or copying during regular office hours of the County office/department having custody of them, unless they are records that are excluded from Freedom of Information Act coverage.
Since complicating and legal factors may have to be considered in some cases, certain requests shall be forwarded immediately to the Public Information Officer. The Public Information Officer shall be responsible for coordinating with the County Administrator and requesting the County Attorney's legal advice and counsel whenever necessary.
Effective July 1, 2022 - Per Code of VA 2.2-3704 (F), public bodies are required to inform requesters that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed the actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying or searching for requested records, and shall ask the requester whether they wish to receive a cost estimate in advance of supplying the requested records. A cost estimate shall be provided if requested. If, after receiving the cost estimate, the requester would like the County to proceed with the records request, the staff time required to determine the cost estimate will be applied to the final amount due. If the requester does not respond to the County’s question within 30 days, the request will be deemed withdrawn.