March 15, 2024

Five Things to Know About the Virginia FOIA and the City of Virginia Beach

Sunshine Week, March 10-16 this year, celebrates freedom of information laws in every state.

Front of Virginia Beach City Hall

Sunshine Week annually highlights the importance of open government, public records and freedom of information.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located in the Code of Virginia, was enacted in 1968 and guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the news media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials and public employees. 

In celebration of the FOIA and the City’s commitment to transparency, here are some interesting facts: 

  1. Virginia Beach City Council created Virginia’s first government Freedom of Information Office in August 2003 under the management of the city attorney.

    Council members recognized the importance of the physical presence of dedicated office space that was readily accessible to the public and situated in a prominent public location. Accordingly, the City literally cut a doorway into the walls of City Hall directly across from the focal point of local governance — the City Council Chamber. This location reflected the seriousness with which the City takes its obligations under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The office has served as a model for the creation of dedicated offices in other municipalities across the Commonwealth. 
  2. Since its creation, the office has been managed by Deputy City Attorney Roderick R. Ingram.

    Ingram has been recognized as one of the Commonwealth’s most knowledgeable government officials on the Virginia FOIA. He also trains City employees and appointed officials on FOIA and the Conflict of Interests Act. The FOIA Office has had three FOIA officers, the current of which is Melena Johnson. 
  3. In the office’s first nine months, it facilitated the response to more than 200 requests for documents.

    In 2023, the office processed 2,034 requests, provided copies of more than 2.6 million pages of documents and more than 563 audio files or body worn camera videos, and scheduled inspections of additional records.
  4. In 2006, the Freedom of Information Office received the public-sector award for outstanding contributions to Freedom of Information.

    The award came from the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, a nonprofit that provides education and advocacy work on behalf of the public’s right to access information from local, regional and state governments. 
  5. Due to the volume of requests for documentation, the Police Department and Human Services respond directly to requests for those records.

    In 2023, the Police Department responded to 7,657 requests for body worn camera video, 5,004 requests for copies of police reports and 10,490 requests for background record checks. Human Services responded to 925 requests for documents in 2023 from Child Protective Services, Adult Protective Services, Foster Care and Behavioral Health Services. 

Questions regarding the City’s FOIA process can be directed to FOIA Officer Melena Johnson at or (757) 385-4052

Contact Information

Keep Reading

See All Posts