Fix the Public Information Process
You have a chance to be a meaningful part of the public information process here in the State of Maryland.
Attorney General Brian Frosh is contemplating suggesting PIA changes to the Maryland General Assembly. From the Attorney General’s Office:
The Office of the Attorney General is accepting public comments on its Interim Report of the Office of the Attorney General on the Implementation of the Public Information Act through the end of June, 2017. Comments may take any written form and may be submitted by email to email@example.com or by regular mail c/o Deborah Spence, Office of the Attorney General, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Maryland, 21202. If submitting comments by email, please note “Interim PIA Report” in the email subject line. Our Office will consider public comments in formulating the final report, which is due at the end of 2017. All public comments will be available upon request.
If you or anybody else that you know has requested information from a state agency through a Public Information Act request or has had a difficult time with PIA requests, this is a good way to provide feedback to see about getting things changed. You’ll have more luck getting a change implemented in 2018 if you make your comments known to the Attorney General and can get it included in this year’s report.
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Ironically, one of the people that we have had problems with in submitting Public Information Act requests is the Office of Attorney General Brian Frosh. As you know, we submitted a Public Information Act request to Frosh’s office for information related to his involvement in the AG’s United for Clean Power scandal last April. Ultimately, the complaint was dismissed on a technicality. In reality, the process was exposed as being far too obtuse and easily manipulated by an office, such as the Office of the Attorney General, to ensure that media outlets such as Red Maryland don’t have the capability of publishing important documents that the public should know about.
As I said at the time of the dismissal of our complaint, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that created the Maryland Public Information Act Compliance Board but gave it limited jurisdiction that only covered the amount of fees that were being assessed. They did not give the Board any authority or jurisdiction that allows them to rule on the validity of fee waivers for any individuals, whether they are a media organization like us or if they are private citizens. That is a serious flaw in the law and something that the Maryland General Assembly should take corrective action.
This is your opportunity to really influence the way information is shared with our residents, and truly change Maryland for the better. Make sure to submit your comments to the Office of the Attorney General by June 30th to make your voice heard on these important potential reforms.