FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
31 , 2004
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 correspondence of July 30, 2004.
asked a question concerning the application of the Virginia
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the Washington County
Service Authority's ("the Authority") customer dispute
that the Authority is a public water and wastewater facility,
chartered under the Virginia Water and Wastes Authority Act.
The Authority has established rules for customer disputes,
under which a customer may file a dispute or request that
the Authority prepare a dispute form. The dispute is then
reviewed in light of the Authority's rules and policies, and
an informal conference is held between the manager's designee
and the customer. If the customer is unsatisfied with the
results of the conference, he may appeal his dispute to a
formal dispute committee comprised of two Authority Board
of Commissioners. This committee disposes of the matter in
the context of the Authority rules. If the committee determines
that an existing policy is inappropriate or inadequate, the
committee may make an interim adjustment and refer the policy
matter to the full Board of Commissioners for its consideration.
You indicate that the dispute committee has the authority
to resolve the dispute before them on behalf of the full Board
of Commissioners, and that the dispute committee is not bound
by previous rulings.
is whether the meetings of the dispute resolution committee
are meetings under FOIA that must be noticed and open to the
public. You indicate that currently, the meetings of the dispute
resolution committee are not advertised. You ask whether the
practice of the dispute resolution committee complies with
the provisions of FOIA.
sets forth the definition of a public body at § 2.2-3701
of the Code of Virginia as any legislative body, authority,
board, bureau, commission, district or agency of the Commonwealth
or of any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, including
cities, towns and counties, municipal councils, governing
bodies of counties, school boards and planning commissions...it
shall include...any committee, subcommittee, or other entity
however designated, or the public body created to perform
delegated functions of the public body or to advise the public
body. The same section defines a meeting as work sessions,
when sitting physically, or through telephonic or video equipment
pursuant to § 2.2-3708, as a body or an entity, or as
an informal assemblage of (i) as many as three members or
(ii) a quorum, if less than three, of the constituent
membership, wherever held, with or without minutes being taken,
whether or not votes are cast, of any public body.
be seen from these definitions, a committee or subcommittee
that performs delegated functions or advises the full public
body is also considered a public body for purposes of FOIA.
This means that when three or more, or a quorum if less than
three, of the members of the committee gather to discuss the
public business assigned or designated to the committee, it
is a meeting under FOIA that must be noticed and open to the
public. In the facts you present, the dispute resolution committee
is composed of two members of the seven-member Authority board.
The committee appears to be both performing delegated functions
of the full board by having full authority to resolve customer
complaints, as well as advising the public body when it determines
that an existing rule is inappropriate or inadequate. Therefore,
when the two members of the committee meet to discuss customer
complaints, it is a meeting under FOIA. Subsection A of §
2.2-3707 requires that such meetings be open to the public,
and subsection C of § 2.2-3707 requires that notice be
given of the date, time, and location of the meetings.
you for contacting this office. I hope that I have been of