|Submitted||July 28, 2020|
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To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:
The first written communication to or from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney mentioning the terms "COVID-19" and/or "coronavirus" between November 17, 2019 and March 12, 2020. This should be considered to include any form of written communication including but not limited to email, text message, instant message, or any other type of written communication facilitated through any electronic device and/or application of any kind which allows written communication. Please note that this request is only seeking the very first instance of written communication (the earliest to occur) and is not seeking all communications during the specified timeframe.
The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.
In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.
The Mayor's Office of the City of Richmond has received your request. Pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA), Va. Code Sec. (§2.2-3704(A), those who may request records under the statute are:
i. Citizens of the Commonwealth;
ii. Representatives of newspapers and magazines with circulation in the Commonwealth; and
iii. Representatives of radio and television stations broadcasting in or into the Commonwealth.
Therefore, before proceeding with your request, the city requests that you provide documentation of either legal address in the commonwealth or qualifying media affiliation.
What do you need in the way of "qualifying media affiliation"? Is there a document I need to provide and if so, what type of documents do you need? Is this documentation requested of all media outlets regardless of size or format before public documents can be provided?
Thanks very much,
Mr. Breen –
All that is requested is compliance with the statute below. That is, if you do not maintain a legal address in the Commonwealth of Virginia, then the statute stipulates that those who may also request records work for a newspaper or magazine with circulation in the commonwealth, or a radio or television station that broadcasts in the commonwealth.
Thanks very much.
I respectfully ask that you please re-read the referenced statute, which absolutely does not say a requester has to “work” for a newspaper or magazine. I do not believe the word “work” appears in the statute at all. It says a request can be made by representative of a newspaper or magazine. But nowhere does the referenced statute define the format of a newspaper or magazine, which since the advent of the internet is no longer confined to physical print. I will state very clearly that I am a representative of an online magazine RTH-media.blogspot.com which you can verify is circulating in the state of Virginia by navigating to that URL through a web browser. If you find that you are unable to read my writing at the URL, I can mail you a physical copy of examples of my journalism printed directly from that URL.
By this logic no online only media outlets including big names such as Huffington Post or The Daily Caller could make a request in the state of Virginia, though I know for an absolute fact that they do. Here is an example which was not denied even though the requester is not a Virginia resident and their “work” does not appear in physical print:
This logic also creates an arbitrary barrier to access to public information to any media representative at a small outlet without the financial means to physically print their journalism. In a word, this is a violation of the US Constitution which guarantees all citizens freedom of press. I cannot write about that which I cannot investigate.
The statute referenced was written and enacted pre-internet. It does not consider that journalism is no longer confined to physical print, because at the time, physical print was the only way journalism was done.
Does the Mayor’s office check all other journalists before granting access to public information for employment status (again, not actually stated or required by the referenced statute)?
I kindly ask that you consider all of these factors and reconsider this denial.
Thanks very kindly,
Editor and publisher, RTH-media.blogspot.com
Please find attached screenshots taken from FOIA logs provided by this office for the year 2014 which appear to show that this office has and can respond to out-of-state non-resident requesters who are also not media representatives. Two examples are provided, though more are likely to be found in the original document found here:
In light of the fact that this office appears to have provided documents to requesters in the states of Massachusetts and Minnesota, I ask that this request be fulfilled and the documents be provided or that you state why this request is being denied while the two examples were approved and fulfilled.
Thanks very kindly,
Dear Mr. Breen,
Based upon its review of your blog, available at https://rth-media.blogspot.com/, the Office of the Mayor following consultation with the Office of the City Attorney, has concluded your blog does not qualify under Va. Code Sec. 2.2-3704(A) as a magazine with circulation in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a result, the Virginia Freedom of Information Act does not afford your blog access to the public records of the City of Richmond.
Very truly yours,
No problem. Thanks for consideration.
To Whom It May Concern:
I wanted to follow up on the following Virginia Freedom of Information Act request, copied below, and originally submitted on July 28, 2020. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response.
Thanks for your help, and let me know if further clarification is needed.