|NMU||VIRGINIA||Freedom of Information||Apr 11, 2000|
Governor creates FOI Advisory Council
- A new law creates a council to oversee open records and meetings questions and issue non-binding advisory opinions at the request of officials or members of the public.
Gov. Jim Gilmore has signed into law a plan that establishes a Freedom of Information Advisory Council to oversee the application of the state’s open records and meetings laws.
Under the new law, government officials and members of the public may request from the advisory counsel’s office non-binding advisory opinions on whether particular records should be public under the records law. The opinions will not have the force of law but are intended to identify what rights citizens have to government information and proceedings. The advisory council’s staff will also be available to conduct seminars on public-access laws and issues.
The advisory council’s office, which comes under the auspices of the Legislature, is expected to be operational by July 1. The law authorizes funding for the council for only two years. Law makers and other government officials, members of the public and at least one representative of the news media will serve on the advisory council’s board.
Currently, only government officials may request advisory opinions on public-access questions, and the only option for citizens who have been denied records was to sue in court. The advisory council’s two-person staff is expected to provide an expedited and non-adversarial option to appeal denials of public record requests. At least 10 other states have similar offices or agencies to issue advisory opinions or serve as ombudsmen for public-access questions.
(H.B. 551; S.B. 340; Chapter 987)
© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press