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Maryland Public Information Act

What is it?

Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA) grants people the right of access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens. The PIA applies to all three branches of Maryland state government, as well as local government entities. The PIA is found in the State Government Article (“SG”), §§10-611 through 10-630, Annotated Code of Maryland. 

What does it pertain to?

The PIA grants you the right to review available records that are disclosable and to obtain copies of those records. A public record is defined as the original or copy of any documentary material in any form created or received by an agency in connection with the transaction of public business. Included in this definition are written materials, books, photographs, photocopies, films, microfilms, records, tapes, computerized records, maps, drawings and other materials.

However, some public records are confidential under federal or state statutes, under court rules, or under various common law privileges such as attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, and are therefore not releasable under the PIA. In addition, the County has the right to withhold records if it is determined that disclosure of those records would be “contrary to the public interest.” 

How do I apply?

Howard County Government asks that all PIA request be submitted in writing, either via letter or e-mail. The request should be addressed to the individual in the Department who is responsible for the particular record. If you do not know who that is, address your request to the County’s Public Information Officer or to the Head of the Department. It is important that you specifically describe the precise records you seek so that the County can research the request. Please be sure to provide all necessary contact information as further discussions may be necessary to clarify your request.

Upon receipt of your request, the County has up to 30 days to respond. Under the PIA, Howard County has the right to charge for search time exceeding two hours as the first two are free; this fee is based on the hourly salary of the individual(s) carrying out the search. In addition, the County has the right to charge a copying fee of $0.25 per page for a black and white copy. On page 12 of Howard County’s Council Resolution No. 72-2010, you’ll find the ruling for the “Reproduction of Public Records."

For more information on the PIA, visit Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General website at www.oag.state.md.us/Opengov/pia.htm.