The Office of the Attorney General is seeking comment from municipal officials on the initial concept of expanding the Public Information Act Compliance Board's extra-judicial resolution powers to include all manner of PIA disputes.
The summary reads as follows:
"The Maryland Public information Act Compliance Board (“PIACB”) and Public Access Ombudsman (“Ombudsman”) were requested this year by the Chairmen of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and House Appropriations Committee to collect and report data on Public Information Act (“PIA”) caseload and compliance from 23 State cabinet-level agencies, and to makes recommendations on ways to improve PIA monitoring and enforcement. The Joint Chairmen’s request—or “Committee Narrative” request—is available here. The report is due by December 31, 2019.
The PIACB and Ombudsman are in the process of collecting and analyzing the requested data, and are considering frameworks that may enhance the extra-judicial PIA dispute-resolution process. The two entities are in a unique position to make recommendations by drawing on their programmatic experience to date and, in the case of the Ombudsman, by pulling from her extensive interactions with requestors and agencies across the State.
Although still in its conceptual stage, the PIACB and Ombudsman believe that a promising avenue for enhanced PIA dispute resolution lies in permitting parties who are unable to resolve their dispute through Ombudsman mediation to seek a binding resolution from the PIACB, whose jurisdiction could be expanded to include all manner of PIA disputes. By requiring parties to participate in Ombudsman mediation before they could petition the PIACB, this framework would preserve the benefits of the current informal PIA dispute-resolution process. Simultaneously, this framework would enable a currently-underutilized PIACB to address a very real need of requestors and agencies—the need for an accessible enforcement remedy as an alternative to going to court. This framework would not preclude the judicial remedy for those who want it, and any final decision of the PIACB could be appealed for judicial review.
The PIACB and Ombudsman expect to provide more detail on their findings and recommendations before they submit the final report at the end of the year, and, in the meantime, welcome comments from interested stakeholders by email: email@example.com.
If you have any questions, please contact, Janice Clark, 410-576-7033 Administrative Officer, Public Information Act Compliance Board, and Public Access Ombudsman."
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.