The Public Access Ombudsman’s Office is open but staff currently are working entirely remotely.
Maryland State Government is operating under policies intended to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining operations to the fullest extent possible. While we are attempting to conduct business as usual, working remotely means that our attempts to resolve PIA disputes with a variety of state and local government programs may be slower/less efficient than normal. Additionally, at the present time and for the foreseeable future, we are not receiving regular mail sent to us at 200 St. Paul Pl. in Baltimore.
You can also call us at 410-576-6050 and leave a voicemail message to which we will respond as soon as possible. Please be sure to leave a contact email, if possible, so that we may write back to you.
We will make every effort to respond as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.
Maryland Department of Health – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Information
There are resources available on the Maryland Department of Health website. The link is: https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/Pages/Novel-coronavirus.aspx.
- New Blog Post from the Public Access Ombudsman: What Criminal Records Can I Get Under the PIA? 07/09/20
- New Blog Post from the Public Access Ombudsman: Update on Agency PIA Practices during the Pandemic. 5/28/20
- Government Transparency During Covid-19 Pandemic. In the News. Limited access to public records during pandemic prompts calls for transparency, reforms. The PLS Reporter. 5/22/20
- New Data! Metrics Reports regarding the Public Access Ombudsman Program are ready! 1st Quarter 2020 Report, Since Inception Report. 5/7/20
- PIA in the News. Some State Agencies Pause Access to Public Information During COVID-19 Pandemic. Maryland Matters. 05/06/20
- Notice Concerning Ombudsman Operations Due to COVID-19 Virus – Remote access to the Ombudsman for those who have no access to email or the internet, e.g. Inmates. 04/08/20
- New Blog Post from the Public Access Ombudsman, Importance of Accurate PIA Custodian Contact Information. 4/06/20
- Blog Post from the Public Access Ombudsman, Guidance to Governmental Custodians Regarding PIA Timelines during the COVID-19 Crisis. 3/23/20
- Ombudsman and PIA Compliance Board publish Final Report on the PIA, available here. 12/27/19
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.