FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
November 29, 2000, Richmond
During its third
meeting, the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council
heard presentations on technology issues and discussed its
first annual report.
Officials from the
Library of Virginia prepared a presentation for the council
discussing electronic communications and the Virginia Public
Records Act. The presentation noted that the Public Records
Act and the Freedom of Information Act take similar approaches
to e-mail. By itself, e-mail is not a record, but it is a
means of conveying various types of information, much like
a piece of paper or microfilm. The presentation covered retention
schedules for various records and noted that the same schedules
applied to information conveyed via e-mail as paper. Essentially,
e-mail should not be treated any differently than paper from
a records perspective.
The council next
heard a presentation from the director of the Division of
Legislative Automated Systems, who addressed key highlights
of several means of electronic communication. He covered conference
calls; private networks; the Internet, which includes e-mail;
news and discussion groups; instant messaging; chat rooms;
and commercial hybrids, describing how each worked and the
types of communications for which each might be valuable.
The issues in the
presentations suggested many interesting, albeit difficult,
questions in the realm of public records and electronic communication's
effect on the application of the Freedom of Information Act.
The council will continue to examine these issues at future
The executive director
of the council presented a draft of the council's first annual
report. The council is required to file an annual report on
its activities and findings regarding FOIA to the Governor
and Generally Assembly. The report outlined the general operations
of the office, and provided a statistical breakdown of the
number and type of inquiries it had received thus far, as
well as the number of "hits" to its website. To
date, the council has received 100 inquiries via phone, e-mail,
or letter, and has recorded more 900 visits to its homepage.
The next meeting
of the council has been tentatively set for Wednesday, March
14, 2001, at 10:00 a.m.
The Honorable Clifton
A. Woodrum, Chairman
Staff contact: Maria