Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of the Augusta County Service Authority (Service Authority) under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act

Custodian of the Records

FOIA provides that requests should be made to the custodian of the records you are seeking. The Service Authority is the custodian of the records related only to the transaction of public business by the Service Authority.  The Service Authority is not the custodian of records related to the transaction of public business by the County of Augusta or other departments of Augusta County.  The requester should contact Augusta County or the specific department of Augusta County for information regarding a request for those records.

Your rights under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located at §§ 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, ensures citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to nonexempt public records held by a public body or its officers and employees. The public purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities.
A public record is defined generally as any writing or recording -- regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording, or any other format -- that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business.  All public records are presumed to be open and may only be withheld if a specific statutory exemption applies and is properly invoked by the public body.  Records that are not prepared for or used in the transaction of public business are not public records.
  •  You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies, or both, of nonexempt public records.
  • You have the right to request that any charges for the public records responsive to your request be estimated in advance of responding to your request.
  • If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA.  Alternatively, you may contact the FOIA Council(http://foiacouncil.dls.virginia.gov/) for a nonbinding advisory opinion.

How to request records from the Service Authority

You may request records by mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the telephone.  FOIA does not require that your request be in writing nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA.  The following requirements will better enable the Service Authority to respond to your request:
  • Your request must include your name and legal address.
  • Your request must identify the records you are seeking with reasonable specificity. Reasonable specificity does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting; instead, it requires that you be sufficiently specific so that the Service Authority can identify and locate the records you are requesting.
  • Your request must ask for existing records or documents. The Service Authority is not required to create a new record if the record does not already exist.FOIA gives you the right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to any situation where you are seeking information to be provided in any form not consisting of a writing or a recording.
  • You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by the Service Authority in the regular course of its business.

All FOIA records requests should be directed to the Service Authority’s FOIA Officer who can be contacted in the following ways:

  • In person at the Administration & Engineering Offices of the Service Authority, 18 Government Center Lane, Verona, VA 24482
  • By telephone: 540-245-5366 or fax 540-245-5684
  • By e-mail: foia@acsawater.com
  • By mail: P. O. Box 859, Verona, VA 24482

Additionally, the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA.  The Council may be contacted by e-mail at foiacouncil@dls.virginia.gov, or by phone at 804-225-3056 or toll free at 1-866-448-4100.
 
The Service Authority’s responsibilities in responding to your request

The Service Authority shall respond to your request within five (5) work days of receipt.  The five-work-day-period begins the work day immediately following the work day the request is received and does not include weekends or holidays.
 
If the Service Authority is unable to provide the requested records or to determine whether such records are available or nonexempt within five (5) work days, the Service Authority FOIA Officer shall send a response within the five-work-day-period to the requester stating that it is not practically possible to provide a substantive response within five (5) work days and specifying the conditions that make providing a substantive response impossible.  The Service Authority shall then have an additional seven (7) work days to provide a substantive respond to the request.
 
If more than seven (7) work days is necessary to provide a substantive response to a request for an extraordinary volume of records or which will require an extraordinarily lengthy search, the Service Authority shall make reasonable efforts to reach an agreement with the requester for additional time.  If an agreement with the requester cannot be reached, the Service Authority may petition the court for additional time to provide a substantive response.

Types of Records

The following is a general description of the types of records held by the Service Authority:

  • Personnel records concerning employees and officials of the Service Authority.
  • Records of contracts to which the Service Authority is a party.
  • Records regarding water/wastewater facilities that the Service Authority owns and/or operates.

Records exempt from FOIA

The Code of Virginia allows a public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure.  The Service Authority will withhold otherwise public records containing confidential information and subject to the exemptions provided in Virginia State Code §2.2-3705.1 and 2.2-3705.7.

Exemptions commonly invoked by the Service Authority

The Code of Virginia allows a public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure.  The Service Authority most commonly withholds records subject to the following general exemptions provided under the Code of Virginia:
  • Personnel information identifying an individual (§ 2.2-3705.1(1))
  • Records subject to the attorney-client privilege (§ 2.2-3705.1(2)) or the attorney work product doctrine (§ 2.2-3705.1(3))
  • Correspondence and working papers of the Executive Director (§ 2.2-3705.7(2))
  • Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (§ 2.2-3705.1(12))
  • Customer identifying account records for water/sewer services (§ 2.2-3705.7(7))
  • Trade secrets or proprietary information submitted by a bidder, offeror, or contractor in connection with a procurement transaction subject to the Virginia Public Procurement Act, §§ 2.2-4300, et seq. (§2.2-4342(F))

Policy regarding the use of exemptions

The general policy of the Service Authority is to invoke the exemptions listed above in order to: protect the safety and privacy of the Service Authority’s customers, employees and officials; to protect the Service Authority’s bargaining position and negotiating strategy in contractual and legal matters; and to protect the correspondence and working papers of the Executive Director.

Costs

A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees, or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication.  All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in § 2.2-3704(F) of the Code of Virginia.
 
If there are costs involved in responding to your request, you will be provided at your request with an estimate of the projected costs for approval before the request is processed.  Advance notification of charges informs you of any anticipated costs and gives you the opportunity to limit the scope of your request, which may reduce costs.
 
If the Service Authority estimates that costs will be under $200, you will be provided with an invoice for costs when you are provided the requested records.  Invoices are required to be paid within 30 days of receipt, or payment may be made at the time requested records are received.  If the Service Authority estimates in advance of processing your request that costs will likely exceed $200, a deposit will be required prior to processing your request.  The deposit may not exceed the estimated charges and will be credited toward the final cost of supplying the requested records.  The period of time in which the Service Authority is required to respond to your request is placed on hold between the day the Service Authority sends to you advance notice of the estimate exceeding $200 and the day the Service Authority receives your deposit. If the actual cost is less than the deposit, any balance remaining will be refunded.  If the actual cost is more than the deposit, an invoice will be issued and the balance must be paid within 30 days of receipt, or payment of the balance may be made at the time requested records are received.
 
All payments must be made payable to the Service Authority.
 
If you owe the Service Authority money from a previous public records request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the Service Authority may require payment of the past-due bill before responding to your new public records request.