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 email@example.com or click here.
***POSTPONED UNTIL JANUARY 2024***
New Date TBA mid-Dec. 2023
Brown Bag Training #4 – Protecting Personal
Information & Anonymizing Data
Are you interested in what the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA) means when it says “unless an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of a person in interest would result, [the PIA] shall be construed in favor of allowing inspection of a public record…”?
Do you want to better understand requirements to protect personal information and certain sensitive data when responding to PIA requests?
Have you ever wondered what tools and practices are used to anonymize and protect data?
Then join the Ombudsman for a FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC TRAINING!
- When? POSTPONED UNTIL JANUARY 2024 – New date to be announced mid-December 2023.
- Where? Virtual – Registration closes on November 27. Registrants will receive the link on November 28 to join this training via Microsoft Teams.
- How? This will be a “brown bag lunch” style training. The Ombudsman will cover a range of information relating personal information and anonymizing data as it relates to the PIA.
- Requests? Follow the registration link above and submit your request using the form.
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:
Additionally, the Ombudsman adopted new regulations to conform with these changes. These regulations took effect on September 18, 2023. Click here to visit COMAR Online and access the Ombudsman’s regulations. You can also manually search COMAR Online for the Ombudsman’s regulations (Title 14, Subtitle 37).