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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 email, to the Office of Public Information EXCEPT for requests that deal solely with County's Police Department or Department of Fire and Rescue Services. In your request, 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. 


To submit a request to the County's Office of Public Information, either mail the request to: Office of Public Information, Attn: Mark Miller, Administrator, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043, or email ask@howardcountymd.gov. Additional contact information for the Office of Public Information can be found online or by calling 410-313-2022. 


To submit a request to the Police Department, either mail the request to: Howard County Police Department, Attn: Jeanne Upchurch, Custodian of Records, 3410 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043, or email jupchurch@howardcountymd.govAdditional contact information for the Police Department n can be found online or by calling 410-313-2250.  

To submit a request a request to the Department of Fire and Rescue Services, either mail the request to: Jackie Kotei, Public Information Officer, 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Suite 400, Columbia, MD 21046, or email jkotei@howardcountymd.govAdditional contact information for the Department of Fire and Rescue Services can be found online or by calling 410-313-6000. 

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 paper copy, as mentioned on page 12 of Howard County Council Resolution No. 80-2015, if electronic copies of the responsive records exist, they are free of charge. However, per page 13 of the Council Resolution, when an electronic response, or portion therefore, is too large to send electronically, the Public Information Office shall convert the response, or portion thereof, to paper, CD, DVD or flash drive, as the requestor specifies. The cost of a CD/DVD is $10 per disk and a flash drive is $20 per drive. 


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