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Supervisors to take up FOIA fee policy, loan to airport
BY KATIE THISDELL
Stafford County could soon set specific rates that supervisors may charge for responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Board of Supervisors will discuss a new FOIA policy at today's meeting, along with revisions to the board's bylaws.
State law dictates what information localities must provide for public records requests, but it does not outline how much may be charged to do so.
Supervisors Gary Snellings and Bob Thomas make up the bylaws committee and want to clear any misunderstandings.
"We were concerned, a lot of folks on some of the boards and commissions we appoint may not be aware totally they are under FOIA, and this will lay it out for them," Snellings said.
The proposed policy would regulate the maximum amount supervisors, public officials and staff may charge for records requests, based on their salaries in the county.
For example, a supervisor may not charge more than $9.85 per hour, based on a $20,000 salary. The chairman may charge $10.34 per hour, based on the policy presented by the committee.
"We put that in there really for the protection of the folks that are requesting the stuff," said Snellings, who added that he does not charge fees when he responds to open records requests.
Recently, Supervisor Cord Sterling charged $1,240 to fulfill a FOIA request--$155 per hour for eight hours. That rate was based on what he's paid as a the vice president of Aerospace Industries Association to search his personal email account that contains his correspondence as a supervisor.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council stated in a letter that the "rate does not reflect the actual cost to the county to produce the records."
Sterling said all his emails are now on the county server, instead of being forwarded to his personal email account, which has been common practice for many supervisors.
He says county staff will now handle FOIA requests he receives.
"When people are issuing broad FOIA requests that require days upon days to sift through documents, that's something that's above and beyond what's reasonable," said Sterling, adding that he'd have to take vacation days to fulfill the request.
"They should be responsible for covering the costs they impose upon society."
Today will be a busy day for supervisors.