FOIA Rights & Responsibilities

Rights & Responsibilities

The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of the City of Colonial Heights under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.

A public record is 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.

FOIA’s policy is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities.  In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.

Your FOIA Rights

  • You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both.
  • You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
  • 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 for a nonbinding advisory opinion.

Making a Request for Records from a Department of the City of Colonial Heights

  • You may request records by U.S. Mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the phone.  FOIA does not require that your request be in writing, nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA.
    • From a practical perspective, it may be helpful to both you and the person receiving your request to put your request in writing.  This allows you to create a record of your request.  It also gives us a clear statement of what records you are requesting, so that there is no misunderstanding over a verbal request.  However, we cannot refuse to respond to your FOIA request if you elect not to put it in writing.
  • Your request must identify the records you are seeking with "reasonable specificity." This is a common-sense standard.  It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting; instead, it requires that you be specific enough so that we can identify and locate the records that you are seeking.
  • Your request must ask for existing records or documents.  FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to a situation where you are asking general questions about the work of the City, nor does it require the City to create a record that does not exist.
  • You may choose to receive electronic records in any format the City uses in the regular course of business.
    • For example, if you are requesting records maintained in an Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via e-mail or on a computer disk, or to receive a printed copy of those records.
  • If we have questions about your request, please cooperate with staff's efforts to clarify the type of records that you are seeking or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request.  Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process, but we may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that we understand what records you are seeking.

 See the Appendix at the end of this Rights and Responsibilities statement to determine the appropriate City employee to contact for public records.  In addition, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA.  The Council may be contacted by e-mail, or by phone at (804) 225-3056 or [toll free] 1-866-448-4100.

The City Department's Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request

  • The City department must respond to your request within five working days of receiving it.  "Day One" is considered the day after your request is received.  The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays.
  • The reason behind your request for public records from the City is irrelevant, and you do not have to state why you want the records before we respond to your request.  FOIA does, however, allow the City to require you to provide your name and legal address.
  • FOIA requires that the City make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
  1. We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
  2. We withhold all of the records that you have requested, because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory exemption.  If all of the records are being withheld, we must send you a response in writing.  That writing must identify the volume (if applicable) and subject matter of the records being withheld and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows us to withhold the records.
  3. We provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other records.  We cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption.  In that instance, we may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld and must provide you with the remainder of the record.  We must provide you with a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
  4. We inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist (we do not have the records you want).  However, if we know that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for the other public body in our response to you.
  5. If it is practically impossible for the City to respond to your request within the five-day period. We must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow us seven additional working days to respond to your request, giving us a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.
  • If you make a request for a very large number of records, and we feel that we cannot provide the records to you within 12 working days without disrupting our other organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request.  However, FOIA requires that we make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the production or the records before we go to court to ask for more time. 


  • A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records and shall make all reasonable efforts to supply the requested records at the lowest possible cost. 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 a public body charges shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication.
  • You may have to pay for the records that you request from the City.  FOIA allows us to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests.  This would include items like staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records.  It cannot include general overhead costs. Prior to conducting a search for records, the public body shall notify the requestor in writing that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquire of the requestor whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records. The public body shall provide the requester with a cost estimate if requested.
  • If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we may require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request.  The five days that we have to respond to your request does not include the time between when we ask for a deposit and when you respond. Any costs incurred by the public body in estimating the cost of supplying the requested records shall be applied toward the overall charges to be paid by the requester for the supplying of such requested records. 
  • You may request that we estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested.  This will allow you to know about any costs upfront, or give you the opportunity to modify your request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.
  • If you owe us money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the City will require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.
  • The City of Colonial Heights charges the following costs for responding to requests:
    1. Charges for copies which are readily accessible shall be $0.15 per page after the first five pages (first five pages are free).
    2. Charges for copies which require research by staff members shall be $0.15 per page after the first five pages (first five pages are free) plus staff time.
    3. Staff time shall be charged at a rate of $40 per hour in fifteen minute increments.
  • Generally, real estate data requests in digital format has a flat fee of $40. 

Types of Records

 The following is a general description of some of the types of records the City holds:

  • Personnel records concerning the City’s employees and officials;
  • Planning and zoning and City Code enforcement records;
  • Voting information;
  • Real estate assessments;
  • Economic development data;
  • City Council meeting minutes, ordinances, and resolutions;
  • General information system and stormwater management records;
  • Building and sign permit records;
  • Recreation programs and activities;
  • City contracts and deeds;
  • City franchise agreements;
  • Public safety incident reports;
  • Police crash reports;
  • Land transactions within the City;
  • Requisitions and purchasing information; and
  • Site and construction plans.

 If you are unsure whether the City has the record(s) you seek, please contact the FOIA Officer specified on the Appendix.

Commonly Used Exemptions

The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure.  The City commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:

  • Personnel records (§ 2.2-3705.1 (1)) of the Code of Virginia);
  • Records subject to the attorney-client privilege (§ 2.2-3705.1 (2)) or that are attorney work product (§ 2.2-3705.1 (3));
  • Vendor proprietary information (§ 2.2-3705.1 (6));
  • Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (§ 2.2-3705.1 (12)); and
  • Income or tax information concerning any person, firm, or corporation (§ 58.1-3.A).


If you desire public records from any of the following City departments, you need to direct your request to Hugh P. Fisher, III, City Attorney, c/o  Jeri-Ann  Tomlin, 201 James Ave, Colonial Heights, VA 23834, (804) 520-9316;

  • City Assessor’s Office;
  • City Attorney’s Office;
  • City Clerk’s Office;
  • City Council
  • City Manager’s Office;
  • Department of Planning and Community Development;
  • Department of Public Works and Engineering;
  • Department of Recreation and Parks;
  • Economic Development Department;
  • Finance Department;
  • General Registrar’s Office;
  • Human Resources Department;
  • Information Technology Department;
  • Library; and
  • Office on Youth.

 If you desire public records from any of the following City departments, you need to direct your request to the department’s specified FOIA Officer:

Circuit Court Clerk’s Office:Stacy Stafford
(804) 520-9364
550 Boulevard, Colonial Heights, VA 23834
Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office: William Feasenmyer
(804) 520-9280
201 James Ave
Colonial Heights, VA 23834
Commonwealth Attorney’s Office: A. Gray Collins, III
(804) 520-9293
550 Boulevard
Colonial Heights, VA 23834
 Emergency Communications:Ashley Rainey
(804) 805-8502
100-B Highland Ave
Colonial Heights, VA 23834 
 Fire and EMS Department:  David Kissner, Deputy Chief
(804) 520-9387
100-B Highland Ave
Colonial Heights, VA 23834
 Police Department:Major Robert Ruxer
(804) 520-9312
100-A Highland Ave
Colonial Heights, VA 23834
 Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff Todd Wilson
(804) 520-9352
550 Boulevard, Colonial Heights, VA 23834
 Treasurer’s Office:Teresa Cherry
(804) 520-9321
201 James Ave 
Colonial Heights, VA 23834