Journalist's Guide

describes the records sought. Sometimes discussing your request with agency staff is the best way to gain access to the records you seek promptly and at little or no cost. Actual fee schedules sometimes may be found in agency regulations. Agencies may choose to waive fees in particular cases. If an agency denies all or part of your request, it must provide you with a written explanation that includes the reason for the denial, the legal authority justifying the denial, and your appeal rights. You have three options to pursue if you are dissatisfied with the agency’s response: (1) You can to go to court to challenge any aspect of the agency’s decision and if you prevail, the court may award attorneys’ fees and damages; (2) If the agency has charged you more than $350 and you believe that fee to be unreasonable, you can file a complaint with the Public Information Act Compliance Board; and (3) You can initiate informal mediation of the dispute through the Public Access Ombudsman. Public Access Ombudsman The Office of the Public Access Ombudsman was created by state law in 2015 and operates independently of the Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General appoints the Ombudsman and provides office space and staff support for the Ombudsman. The Public Access Ombudsman mediates disputes under the Public Information Act which a requester and a records custodian have been unable to resolve themselves. The Ombudsman does not accept PIA requests on behalf of agencies and cannot compel the parties to act in a particular way. The Ombudsman's duties focus solely on attempting to resolve disputes between a requester and a records custodian about a pending request for public information. The information discussed during the mediation remains confidential unless the parties consent to its disclosure. Public Information Act Compliance Board (PIACB) The PIACB is an independent state entity consisting of five members who are appointed by the Governor. The board hears and decides complaints involving allegations a government custodian has imposed an unreasonable fee of more than $350 under the PIA. The board cannot decide any other issues that may arise between a requester and a custodian of records under the PIA. The Office of the Attorney General provides administrative staff and legal advice to the board and publishes the board’s opinions and notices on the Attorney General website. For more details regarding the Public Information Act The Office of the Attorney General publishes a detailed legal analysis of the PIA in the Maryland Public Information Act Manual. The Manual also contains the text of the PIA, the PIA representatives for state and local governments and agencies, and sample request letter to help you make a PIA request.


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