Enacted in 1970, Maryland's Public Information Act (PIA), grants the public a broad right of access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens.
The PIA covers public agencies and officials in Maryland and includes all branches of state government (legislative, judicial, and executive). The PIA is similar in purpose to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
A public record is defined as the original or copy of any documentary material in any form, to include written materials, books, photographs, photocopies, films, microfilms, records, tapes, computerized records, maps and drawings created or received by the Department in connection with the transaction of public business.
Other records may be withheld. Examples include, but are not limited to, investigatory records and inter- and intra-agency memoranda and letters. If a requester is denied access to any DNR records, he or she will be notified as to the specific statutory provisions for each exemption and procedures for challenging the denial(s).
The requester also will be notified if files have been lost or destroyed in accordance with DNR filing and retention schedules.
The term "direct costs" means those expenditures the Department actually makes in searching for, reviewing, and duplicating documents to respond to a PIA request. Direct costs include, for example, the costs of the employees performing the work and the costs of operating duplicating machinery. Not included in direct costs are overhead expenses such as costs of space, heating, or lighting the facility in which the records are stored.
The term "search" includes all time spent looking, both manually and electronically, for material that is responsive to a request. Search also includes a line-by-line or page-by-page identification (if necessary) of material in the record to determine if it or portions thereof are responsive to the request. Time spent reviewing documents in order to determine whether a statutory exemption applies is not search time, but preparation time.
The term "duplication" refers to the process of making a copy of a document in response to a PIA request. Such copies can take the form of paper copy, audiovisual, or machine-readable documentation (e.g., magnetic tape or disc), among others. The Department will provide copies in the same format as kept within the Department unless otherwise specified by the requester.
The term "preparation" refers to the process of examining documents located in response to a PIA request to determine whether one or more of the statutory exemptions require withholding. It also includes the processing of documents for disclosure, such as redacting portions which are not available for release.
In order to be as responsive as possible to PIA requests while minimizing unwarranted costs, requesters should indicate the maximum amount of fees they are willing to pay.
The requester must indicate in advance a willingness to pay fees that cover the Department's estimate of costs. A written copy of an estimate of assessable fees will be provided upon request.
The Department will make every effort to accurately estimate the costs associated with the request. However, the Department is not bound by the estimate and may charge fees that exceed the estimate. The requester will be provided with justification for the fees. Generally, advance payment of the fees will be requested.
Eugene F. Deems, Jr.
Maryland Public Information Act Request Manager
Office of Communications
580 Taylor Avenue, D4
Annapolis, MD 21401
580 Taylor Ave, Annapolis MD 21401