West Virginia Freedom of Information

The West Virginia Freedom of Information Act provided under W.Va. Code § 29B-1-1 et seq.is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in West Virginia.  The Act provides that “the people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.  The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments of government they have created.”

Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government holding that the government is the servant of the people, and not the master of them, it is the public policy of the state of West Virginia that “all persons are, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees.”

Furthermore, the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act provides the methods by which public meetings are conducted.  Statute 6-9A of the West Virginia Code defines the law.  The statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states, “the Legislature hereby finds and declares that public agencies in the state exist for the singular purpose of representing citizens of the state in governmental affairs, and it is, therefore, in the best interests of the people of this state for the proceedings of public agencies be conducted openly, with only a few clearly defined exceptions.”  It further states that “the Legislature finds, however, that openness, public access to information and a desire to improve the operation of government do not require nor permit every meeting to be a public meeting.  The Legislature finds that it would be unrealistic, if not impossible, to carry on the business of government should every meeting, every contact and every discussion seeking advice and counsel in order to acquire the necessary information, data or intelligence needed by a governing body were required to be a public meeting.  It is the intent of the Legislature to balance these interests in order to allow government to function and the public to participate in a meaningful manner in public agency decision-making.”

 


Inside West Virginia Freedom of Information