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Services the Ombudsman performs

The Ombudsman makes reasonable attempts to help applicants and records custodians resolve their disputes regarding certain aspects of the Public Information Act, which are listed in § 4-1B-04 of the General Provisions Article. The Ombudsman cannot compel a custodian to produce a record, nor order a requester to alter the request, but rather serves as a mediator between them. Specific types of disputes include:

  • Custodian’s application of an exemption;
  • Redactions of information in the public record;
  • Failure of a custodian to produce a public record in a timely manner or to disclose all records relevant to the request;
  • Overly broad requests for records;
  • Amount of time a custodian needs to produce public records;
  • A request for or denial of a fee waiver; and
  • Repetitive or redundant requests from an applicant.

Depending on the type of dispute, a request may be submitted by the requester or by the records custodian. The requester and the records custodian are always encouraged to attempt to resolve their concerns before contacting the Ombudsman. The dispute will derive from the nature of the request and the basis for the records custodian’s response.

Timing:  Once a request for mediation is submitted to the Ombudsman and both parties consent to mediation, the applicable due dates are held in abeyance pending the outcome of the mediation.  This differs from the schedule that applies to a complaint submitted to the Public Information Compliance Board.  See “how do I file a complaint with the PIACB” for due dates and procedures. Examples include:

  • A requester receives a response to a PIA request that claims an exemption or redacts information from the record—the request for mediation may be submitted immediately upon receipt.
  • For a mediation request based on an untimely response (or no response within the required time period), there needs to be a passage of time sufficient to establish the delay. Allow enough time for the custodian to respond.
  • A custodian who receives a request that might benefit from the Ombudsman’s services should submit a request for mediation immediately.