FYI on FOI

JGFitzgerald -- December 24th, 2008

Tis the season for, among other things, renewing Freedom of Information requests for the coming year. If you want to be informed of meetings, you need to tell the public body once a year that you want to begin or continue receiving notice.The basic letter:

I hereby request, under the provisions of 2.2-3707-E, that I be informed of all meetings during 2009 of the Harrisonburg (name of body), and that the (board or commission) provide notice of all meetings directly to me. The information required by code is as follows:
(name)
(address)
(daytime phone number)
(email address)
I have prefer electronic notification, but ask that should such notification fail for any reason I would be notified in writing. I am not making this request on behalf of any organization.

At one time, FOI requests for meeting notices could be quite a burden for small localities. Every notice had to be folded, sealed and stamped, and every requester had to be called in the case of an emergency meeting. Obviously, email has changed that. There is no particular reason why every citizen with email shouldn’t be notified of every meeting of council, school board, planning commission, IAD, BZA, HEC and Deer Control Task Force.

The addresses and contacts for most councils, boards, commissions, etc., should be on their web sites. If not, send the FOI request to the city manager or county administrator’s office.

Most groups will just add you to their email lists. (Some, such as, oddly enough, the city Voter Registrar’s office, will just ignore FOI requests, although I assume that particular variation was just for me.)

The final line of the letter, btw, is required if you are requesting on behalf of an organization, and just a courtesy if not.

Anyone who has been to a well-attended meeting of a government body, as opposed to one sparsely populated, knows the difference in style, demeanor, and behavior. Attendance, and the threat of it, may not necessarily keep government honest, but helps keep its members from considering the alternative.

3 Responses to “FYI on FOI”

  1. Eric Gregory says:

    Would you mind providing those addresses (email?) and contact info for the various localities? Since you seem to make those requests yearly, it might help those of us who are interested, but have no idea where to look (or what websites to garner such information from).

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Eric Gregory says:

    Thanks!

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