FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Ms. Randy Slovic
The staff of
the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is authorized
to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion
is based solely upon the information presented in your e-mail
of April 6, 2001.
Dear Ms. Slovic:
You have asked whether
$50 an hour is reasonable for a public body to charge under
the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to copy public
records. You requested documents relating to the assessed
value and sale price of property sold by the City of Richmond.
In response to your request, you were charged $0.25 for each
copy made, as well as $50 for the hour of staff time expended
in responding to your request. You indicate that upon inquiry
about this charge, you were told that the person who located
and copied the records was paid $50 per hour by the city,
and thus the charge was the actual cost to the city in her
spending an hour to respond to your request.
Subsection F of
§ 2.1-342 of the Code of Virginia allows a public body to
make reasonable charges for its actual cost incurred
in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the
requested records. (Emphasis added). In addition to charging
for the cost of reproducing the requested records, the Attorney
General has opined that a public body may take into consideration
the number of hours reasonably necessary to compile, copy
and assemble the requested documents in determining the actual
cost of providing copies.1 In the situation that
you present, it appears that the $50 charge for staff time
is an actual cost incurred by the City of Richmond. Whether
it was also reasonable, as required by FOIA, for the city
to charge $50 for the hour of staff time spent responding
to the request is a question for the courts, and not for this
Thank you for contacting
this office. I hope that I have been of assistance.
Maria J.K. Everett
1983-84 Op. Atty. Gen. Va. 436.