FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
22 , 2004
Virginia Commonwealth University
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 December 3, 2004.
have asked whether a "task force" organized by the
Mayor-elect of the City of Richmond is a "public body"
subject to the requirements of the Virginia Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA). You also ask whether this task force may conduct
private meetings to interview city financial officials. You
indicate that the purpose of the task force is to review and
analyze the fiscal posture and general financial condition
of the City of Richmond. The task force is to advise the Mayor-elect
of the results of this review and analysis.
2.2-3701 of the Code of Virginia defines a "public body"
to mean 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; boards of
visitors of public institutions of higher education; and other
organizations, corporations or agencies in the Commonwealth
supported wholly or principally by public funds. The definition
further includes any committee, subcommittee, or other
entity however designated, of the public body created to perform
delegated functions of the public body or to advise the public
body. It shall not exclude any such committee, subcommittee
or entity because it has private sector or citizen members.
In most situations a "task force" that was created
by a public body "to advise the public body" would
itself be considered a public body under this definition.
However, in this case the task force was organized by the
Mayor-elect, to advise the Mayor-elect.
Supreme Court of Virginia recently addressed the issue of
whether members-elect of a public body could be considered
"members" for purposes of determining whether a
violation of the meetings rules of FOIA had taken place.1
Referring to the definition of "public body" in
FOIA, the Court found that a "member-elect" was
not a "member" as contemplated in the plain language
of the statute.2 In light of the Court's decision
in Beck, it is clear that a Mayor-elect is not a "member"
of the City government until he actually takes office. Thus
this task force is in essence a group of citizens organized
to advise another citizen. Neither the Mayor-elect nor any
member of this task force has any governmental authority or
responsibility in performing this task. Under the circumstances
you have presented, this task force is not a "public
body" for FOIA purposes. It is not subject to the open
records or meeting requirements of FOIA.
you for contacting this office. I hope that I have been of
v. Shelton, 267 Va. 482, 593 S.E.2d 195 (2004).
2Id., 267 Va. at 487-88, 593 S.E.2d at 197-198.