Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Rights and Responsibilities: The Rights of Requesters & the Responsibilities of Appomattox County under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), found in §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.

Your FOIA Rights

  • 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. As of July 1, 2022, public bodies must notify requesters in writing that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquire of the requester whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records.
  • 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. Alternatively, you may contact the Freedom of Information Advisory Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.

How to Request Records from Appomattox County

  • Use the list below to identify the appropriate FOIA Officer to assist you in obtaining the records you desire. You may also contact any of the FOIA officers below with questions you have concerning requesting records from Appomattox County.

    • Commissioner of Revenue's Office
      • Sara Henderson, FOIA Officer
        • Physical Address: 
          329-B Court Street
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Mailing Address:
          P.O. Box 125
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Phone: 434-352-7450
        • Email: Email Sara Henderson
      • Type of Records Available:
        • Real Estate Records; Personal Property Records are protected by Virginia State Code 58.1
        • Transient Occupancy Tax
        • Tax Relief for the Elderly and Disabled
        • State Income Tax (Income and social security numbers protected by law)
        • Land Use Records (Income records protected by law)
        • Other records typical to a Virginia Commissioner of Revenue Office
    • Commonwealth's Attorney's Office
      • Kia Scott, FOIA Officer
        • Physical Address:
          297 Court Street
          Suite A
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Mailing Address:
          P.O. Box 2038
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Phone: 434-352-0675
        • Email: Email Kia Scott
      • Types of Records Available:
        • Records typical to Commonwealth's Attorney's Office
    • County Administration
      • John Spencer, FOIA Officer
        • Physical Address:
          153A Morton Lane
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Mailing Address:
          P.O. Box 863
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Phone: 434-352-2637
        • Email: Email John Spencer
      • Types of Records Available:
        • 911 (except for active criminal investigations)
        • Animal Control
        • Board of Supervisors and other County boards, committees, and commissions
        • Community Development (Planning, Zoning, Building, E&S)
        • Economic Development
        • Financial
        • Parks, Recreation and Tourism
        • Procurement
        • Solid Waste
        • Other records typical to small local governments
    • Circuit Court Clerk's Office
      • Janet Hix, FOIA Officer
        • Physical Address:
          297 Court Street
          Suite B
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Mailing Address:
          P.O. Box 672
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Phone: 434-352-5275
        • Email: Email Janet Hix
      • Types of Records Available (All are public records and are not a part of FOIA):
        • Land records
        • Death records/Wills
        • Marriage records
        • Criminal cases/records
        • Civil cases/record
    • J. Robert Jamerson Memorial Library
    • Sheriff's Office
      • Maj. Robert Richardson, FOIA Officer
        • Physical Address:
          179 Morton Lane
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Mailing Address: 
          P.O. Box 366
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Phone: 434-352-2666
        • Email: Email Robert Richardson
      • Types of Records Available:
        • Records typical to Virginia Sheriff's Offices
    • Treasurer's Office
      • Victoria Phelps, FOIA Officer
        • Physical Address:
          329-A Court Street
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Mailing Address: P.O. Box 689
          Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Phone: 434-352-5200
        • Email: Email Victoria Phelps
      • Types of Records Available:
        • Duplicate Receipt of tax payment
        • Delinquent Real Estate tax list (cost $50)
        • Real Estate and Personal Property Tax Books are available for review
        • Sands Anderson Marks and Miller handles all Delinquent Real Estate Tax Sales 1-800-664-569
        • Records typical to Virginia Treasurer's Offices
    • Voter Registration Office / Electoral Board
      • Patricia Morton, FOIA Officer
        • Physical Address: 367 Virginia Avenue, Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Mailing Address: P.O. Box 8, Appomattox, VA 24522
        • Phone: 434-352-5302
        • Email: Email Voter Registrar
      • Types of Records Available:
        • Records typical to a Virginia Voter Registration Office
  • You may request records by U.S. Mail, fax, email, 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.
    • However, from a practical perspective, it may be helpful to put your request in writing, which allows you to create a record of the request. It also gives us a clear statement of what records you are requesting, so there is no misunderstanding. However, we cannot refuse to respond to your FOIA request if you elect not to 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 Appomattox County, nor does it require Appomattox County to create a record that does not exist.
  • You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by Appomattox 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 email, on a computer disk or flash drive, 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.

  • In addition, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA. The Council may be contacted by emailing the FOIA Council, or by phone at 804-225-3056 or [toll free] 866-448-4100.

Appomattox County's Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request

  • Appomattox 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, holidays, or other days when Appomattox County is closed for business.
  • The reason behind your request for public records from Appomattox 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 Appomattox County to require you to provide your name and legal address.
  • FOIA requires that Appomattox County make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
    1. We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. If it is practically impossible for Appomattox 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.
    6. In the case of criminal investigative files requested pursuant to § 2.2-3706.1 of the Code of Virginia, we are allowed an additional 60 working days to respond to your request, giving us a total of 65 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.

Cost to Receive Requested Records

  • A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records and shall make all reasonable efforts to supply the requested records at the lowest possible cost. 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. Prior to conducting a search for records, the public body shall notify the requester in writing that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquire of the requester whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records 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 Appomattox 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.
  • You may request that we estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested. This will allow you to know about any costs upfront, or give 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, Appomattox County may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.

Exceptions Permitted or Required by the Code of Virginia

The following is a general index of information that may be withheld:

  • Exclusions of general application to public bodies, as found in Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.1
  • Exclusions of records relating to public safety, as found in Virginia Code § 2.2-3075.2
  • Exclusions of records relating to administrative investigations, as found in Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.3
  • Exclusions of educational records and certain records of educational institutions, as found in Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.4
  • Exclusions for health and social services records, as found in Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.5
  • Exclusions for proprietary records and trade secrets, as found in Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.6
  • Exclusions for records of specific public bodies and certain other limited exclusions, as found in Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.7

Policies of Appomattox County

  • The general policy of Appomattox 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 Appomattox County. Personnel records are exempted by § 2.2-3705.1 (1) of the Code of Virginia and are commonly withheld.
  • The general policy of Appomattox County is to invoke the contract negotiations exemption whenever it applies in order to protect the County's bargaining position and negotiating strategy. These records are found in §2.2-3705.1 (12) of the Code of Virginia and are commonly withheld.
  • The general policy of Appomattox County is to invoke the attorney-client privilege exemption (§ 2.2-3705.1 (2)) and/or attorney work product exemption (§ 2.2-3705.1 (3)) whenever either applies in order to protect the County's legal position. These records are commonly withheld.
  • The general policy of Appomattox County is to invoke the vendor proprietary information exemption whenever it applies in order to protect the proprietary property of past, current or future vendors providing goods or services to Appomattox County. These records are exempted by § 2.2-3705.1 (6) and are commonly withheld.
  • The general policy of Appomattox County is that fees to produce FOIA requests are charged based on the time spent by the individual(s) compiling and redacting the document(s) and additional fees. The fee for time spent is calculated by the employee's hourly salary (the total of the annual pay rate for the individual by 2,080 hours) multiplied by the time of production (measured in 6 minute increments).

    The County will take all reasonable precautions to keep personnel time and costs to a minimum, including using lower paid personnel capable of retrieving records to respond to a request. However, in situations where a particular individual is required to search through his/her own email and files contained on his/her individual County computer or other device, it shall not be unreasonable for that individual to retrieve the requested records and charge a FOIA response fee corresponding to his/her salary. In some cases, it may be necessary for multiple personnel to participate in responding to a FOIA request.

  • The general policy of Appomattox County is that copying/printing fees will be assessed at $0.50 per page copied or printed.