Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests
FOIA responses are likely to be delayed because of the COVID-19 health emergency. Our office will respond to your request as soon as possible but potentially beyond the deadline required by FOIA. If a response provided after the deadline is not acceptable, please email FOIAofficer@arlingtonva.us immediately. Thank you for your understanding.
How to Make a Request
Submit Your Request Online
To submit a request without using the Gov-QA portal, please submit your request one of these ways:
- Mail: FOIA Officer, County Attorney’s Office, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 403, Arlington, VA 22201
- Fax: 703-228-7106
- Email: FOIAofficer@arlingtonva.us
- In person: 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201
Review Standard County FOIA Charges
We will respond within five working days. If we cannot respond to a request within the five-day period, you will be informed in writing with an explanation as to why. This allows the County an extension of seven additional working days to respond, providing a total of 12 working days.
If someone requests a very large number of records, and we determine it cannot be filled within 12 working days without disrupting other County organizational responsibilities, the County may petition the court for additional time. However, FOIA requires that a reasonable effort be made to reach an agreement concerning the production of the records before going to the court.
Arlington County will do one of the following:
- Provide the records requested in their entirety and post the records online.
- Withhold all of the records requested, because they are subject to a specific statutory exemption (see below for information regarding exemptions). If records are withheld, you will receive a written explanation identifying the volume and subject matter of the records withheld and the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows the exemption.
- Provide and post online some of the records requested, but withhold others. An entire record will not be withheld if only a portion is subject to exemption. You will receive a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows exemption of a portion of the records.
- Respond in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist. However, if another public body has the requested records, contact information will be included in the response.
Effective November 1, 2018, standard FOIA rates shall apply for all labor and materials. Rates include an hourly rate cap of $25.00/hr. which will be charged for the administration of record retrieval. These rates are displayed as part of the Invoice form(s) used for FOIA
- First, County staff will provide an estimate for charges using the Estimate Form. This estimate may be provided if requested.
- If Estimate is greater than $200, a 50% deposit will be required to be paid by the requestor prior to the records being retrieved and disclosed. A Deposit Invoice will be generated.
- A Final Invoice for either the remainder (if deposit was paid) or total amount due will be generated for the requester. Records will be released and posted publicly upon payment.
The County’s charges for FOIA are consistent with the following guidelines:
- 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 subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.
- If the estimated cost is more than $200, a deposit may be required (not to exceed the amount of the estimate), before the County proceeds with your request. The five days allowed the County for a response does not include the time between a request for a deposit and a response from the requester.
- Cost covers items such as staff time, copying or any other resources directly related to supplying the requested records. It does not include general overhead.
- If requested, an estimate of the charges will be provided prior to supplying the records requested.
- If money is owed from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, Arlington County may require payment of the past-due bill before responding to a new FOIA request.
General Guidelines for Requests
- You must identify the records needed with reasonable specificity. This does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records requested; instead, it requires that a request be specific enough to identify and locate records.
- You must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA allows for inspection or copying of records; it does not require the County to answer general questions about the work of the department involved, nor does it require the department to create a record that does not exist.
- Records can be provided in the format in which they were created.
- For example, if you’re requesting records maintained in an Excel spreadsheet, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via email or on a computer disk, or to receive a printed copy of those records. Records created by hand can only be provided in print.
- You may be contacted if there are questions.
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Arlington County commonly withholds records subject to exemptions such as:
- Personnel records
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege
- Vendor proprietary information
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded
- Security matters
- Single Family Residential Dwellings
Code of Virginia citations for the complete list of record exemptions:
- 2.2-3705.1: exclusions of general application to public bodies
- 2.2-3705.2: records relating to public safety
- 2.2-3705.3: records relating to administrative investigations
- 2.2-3705.4: educational records and certain records of educational institutions
- 2.2-3705.5: health and social services records
- 2.2-3705.6: proprietary records and trade secrets
- 2.2-3705.7: records of specific public bodies and certain other limited exclusions
- 2.2-3705.8: Limitation on record exclusions