Sunrise over V.A. Capitol.

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.

Technology Presentations

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, email 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 email as paper. Essentially, email 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 meetings.

Annual Report

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 J.K. Everett