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Cuccinelli claims AG’s office not subject to FOIA

The attorney general’s office is not subject to Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says.

In a recent letter denying a citizen’s request for conflict-of-information training data, a senior assistant attorney general responded saying a “good-faith argument” could be made that the office is responsive to FOIA requests only as a courtesy.

A Cuccinelli spokesperson told both The Roanoke Times and The Washington Post that “FOIA doesn’t apply to a constitutional office,” including the attorney general’s office.

The AG’s office reports it now is inserting a disclaimer into all FOIA responses contending it is not bound by the FOIA based on a 2011 Supreme Court of Virginia opinion. That opinion holds the state FOIA does not apply to the State Corporation Commission.

Cuccinelli’s FOIA position is not mentioned in the three-page FOIA “Rights and Responsibilities” document posted on his office’s website. The opening sentence of the information sheet states the FOIA guarantees citizens “access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.”

The document details how to make a request for records from the Office of the Attorney General. “The office must respond to your request within five working days of receiving it,” the document reads.

A Virginia legislator introduced a bill to reverse the Supreme Court opinion exempting the SCC from the FOIA. House Bill 2321 was left in committee in the 2013 General Assembly, but sponsor Del. Scott Surovell tells WRIC he remains hopeful for a change in the law.

The station reports Virginia was ranked low in a “state integrity” investigation because of the SCC FOIA exemption.

UPDATE: Cuccinelli softens stance on public records law

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