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Welcome to the Office of the Public Access Ombudsman

 

Created in 2016, the Office of the Public Access Ombudsman is an independent agency headed by the Public Access Ombudsman (“Ombudsman”) charged under Maryland law to make reasonable attempts to help applicants/requesters and records custodians/agencies resolve disputes arising from requests made under the Maryland Public Information Act (“PIA”) (§ 4-1B-04 of the General Provisions Article). While independent from the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”), the Ombudsman is appointed to a 4-year term by the Attorney General of Maryland, and receives resource and staff support from the OAG. Lisa A. Kershner, Esq., is currently serving her second term as the Public Access Ombudsman.

If you have an issue involving a PIA request and want to request mediation assistance from the Ombudsman, please click here or visit “Request Mediation” linked to the left.

Beyond mediation assistance, the Ombudsman offers free PIA training to the public. In order to request training, please email the Ombudsman’s dedicated mailbox pia.ombuds@oag.state.md.us or click here.


July 1, 2022 – What’s Changed?

Effective July 1, 2022, Chapter 658 of the 2021 Acts of the Maryland General Assembly (also referred to as HB183) expands the jurisdiction of the PIA Compliance Board (“PIACB”) while instituting an integrated PIA complaint dispute resolution process that includes the Ombudsman. Before an individual is eligible to submit a complaint to the PIACB, mediation must first be attempted by the Ombudsman. Once a request for mediation file is opened by the Office, the Ombudsman will have 90 days to attempt to resolve the dispute unless the parties agree to an extension in writing. At the conclusion of the mediation, the Ombudsman will issue a written Final Determination to the parties. Depending on the outcome of the mediation and the nature of the dispute, a party may be eligible to file a complaint with the PIACB – click here for more information.

These changes are also summarized in these downloadable one-pagers: