The FOIA Request

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.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act requires that public records be made available to citizens and the media for copying and/or inspection. FOIA refers to records that are in existence and does not require that the City of Suffolk create records. The City of Suffolk may abstract and summarize records, by agreement with the requestor.

Making a Request


Making a request for records from the City of Suffolk
  • You may request records by U.S. Mail, fax, email, 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 to not 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 of Suffolk, nor does it require the City of Suffolk to create a record that does not exist.
  • You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by the City of Suffolk 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 email 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.
To request records from the City of Suffolk you may direct your request to Diana Klink, FOIA Officer/Director, Media and Community Relations Department, or Tim Kelley, Deputy FOIA Officer/Assistant Director, Media and Community Relations Department. You may also contact Ms. Klink or Mr. Kelley with questions you have concerning requesting records from the City of Suffolk. 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 email, or by phone at 804-225-3056 or [toll free] 866-448-4100.

Suffolk's Responsibilities in Responding to Requests


The City of Suffolk's responsibilities in responding to your request include:
  • The City of Suffolk 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 of Suffolk 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 of Suffolk to require you to provide your name and legal address.
  • FOIA requires that the City of Suffolk 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 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 of Suffolk 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.