FOIA Advisor

Q&A: Love thy neighbor?

Q&A (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q.  I received a violation from the Arlington County [Virginia] Code Enforcement Inspector for debris, junk and miscellaneous items around my property.  A neighbor made a complaint.  I have asked several times about the name of the neighbor who filed the complaint.  This is just to satisfy me.  I have been told that I can file a F.O.I.A form. Please advise me on the next step to take. 

A. All the information needed to make a FOIA request is available on the Arlington County's website.  I doubt, however, that the County will release the identity of the complainant.  The Virginia FOIA specifically exempts the "names, addresses and telephone numbers of complainants furnished in confidence with respect to an investigation of individual zoning enforcement complaints or complaints relating to the Uniform Statewide Building Code (§ 36-97 et seq.) or the Statewide Fire Prevention Code (§ 27-94 et seq.) made to a local governing body."  Even if that specific exemption does not apply, the complainant's identity is likely to be withheld under other provisions aimed at protecting an individual's privacy and safety.