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Common Public Records in Maryland

Records in alphabetical order:

Maryland also has an Open Data Portal, housed in the Department of Information Technology that has many data sets.

Record What it shows Where to find it Why you need it
Arrest warrants Charges that a police agency or prosecutors intend to take to court against a defendant. Police agencies should maintain files of open warrants. Under provisions enacted in 1998 by the state legislature, arrest warrants are not public records until 90 days after they have been issued, ostensibly to give law enforcement time to locate the individual and serve the warrant. Arrest warrants ensure that suspects are being properly charged if they are suspected of a crime.
Audits Audits can show whether an agency is properly spending its money or whether programs and procedures in place are accomplishing the desired results. Agencies that receive local, state or federal money probably have to conduct audits to account for that money. Those records should be available from the agency or from the source of the money. In addition, many agencies perform operational audits for such things as certification or to ensure they are in compliance with local, state or federal laws. These audits also should be available from the agency, or from any entity overseeing the agency for purposes of certification or grant approval. The Federal Audit Clearinghouse, under the federal Office of Management and Budget, maintains a Web site with an extensive database of audits for a variety of agencies and governmental bodies. Ensuring that tax dollars are being wisely spent and that agencies are operating in the most efficient manner possible.
Autopsy reports The cause of death when that death occurs under unusual circumstances. The state Office of the Medical Examiner Cause of death can be used in court cases to establish a defendant’s guilt or innocence.
Birth Certificates Record of a person’s birth in Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Division of Vital Records. Birth records may be needed to establish citizenship or for the purpose of settling an estate. They are, however, available only to the person named on the record or an authorized representative, who must submit a court order or notarized statement signed by the person named on the record.
Bridge inspections Bridge inspection data rate structures on their functionality and structural integrity. The State Highway Administration, Bridge Inspections and Remedial Engineering Division. The state receives federal money for bridge work. About 50 percent of Maryland bridges are under state control; about 35 percent are under county control; the remainder are under federal control. Knowing that our bridges are safe, and that limited funding is going where it is needed most is a matter of considerable public interest.
Budgets Budgets show the revenues and expenses for a government body. Most government bodies have a budget office, where the documents can be located. In addition, the annual budget process must go through a public hearing schedule where residents can come and comment on the proposal. (See also: Public meetings). Tracking government spending, seeing where tax dollars are going and ensuring sound fiscal decisions. (See also: Budget Expenses).
Budget Expenses Expenses paid with tax dollars (such as cell phones, travel or meals or government-issued credit cards) are public records. Government bodies have to maintain records of expenses paid in order to account for their expenditures of tax dollars. These records can show, for instance, if a public official is misusing a government-issued credit card by making unauthorized charges, or making personal calls on a government-issued cell phone. Keeping these records open is essential to the public’s ability to watch over government spending.
Business  / Professional Licenses Can show whether a business is licensed to work in the county, municipality and/or state, if any violations have been noted or if any complaints have been filed. County or municipal offices that require licenses or permits will have an office where these can be found. At the state level, the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation maintains these records. (See also: Division of Financial Regulation and Division of Professional Licensing) Knowing whether a vendor is properly licensed to work in the area or whether a professional has any violations or complaints can be helpful when searching for a contractor, real estate agent or any number of other professions. Much of the information is available on DLLR’s Web site, but some of the information is not up to date and it may take a request to the agency to get the most current information available.
Campaign Contributions The sources of funding for candidates for public office. The County Election Office, as well as the state Board of Elections, maintains this information. Determining if candidates are being influenced by special interests can be key for voters who are trying to determine which candidate most closely matches their basic views.
Census Data Census data can provide information such as a community’s racial make-up, average housing costs, length of time people have lived in a community, the age of residents, income figures, occupations and other demographic data. The U.S. Census Bureau maintains a Web site where information from the most recent census, as well as some intermediate censuses, can be found. People looking to open a business in a community may want to look first to see who lives there, how the community is growing or shrinking and whether residents work in the community or commute elsewhere. The data can also be merged with voting records to provide a picture of the type of residents who live in a particular community, or with school performance or crime data to help show whether the schools are declining or whether crime is on the increase. Interim census reports can provide an early indication of emerging demographic trends.
Court Records / Proceedings Charges filed, cases heard and dispositions of those cases. Most counties have a district and circuit court building or courthouse. Federal cases can be found at the federal courthouse in Baltimore or Greenbelt. The state also maintains a Web site that includes links to appellate opinions, as well as general information such as how to get a record expunged or how to file a small claims complaint. Court proceedings, except in rare instances, such as to protect a juvenile or in cases of child abuse, are open to the public. Court records, including dockets of upcoming cases, disposition of cases and criminal records also are open. This is to protect both the public and assuring that those accused get a fair trial.
Death Certificates The official record of a person’s death. The state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Division of Vital Statistics. Death certificates are available only to surviving relatives, authorized representatives, beneficiaries and certain others who may have a legal claim with the deceased.
Divorces A record of divorce proceedings in a given jurisdiction. Circuit court Having divorce records public makes an easy quick reference for people who are embarking on second marriages to ensure that their potential spouse’s first marriage has ended
Driving Records The driving record and any violations imposed over the previous three years State Motor Vehicle Administration Businesses and individuals can get three-year driving records of other individuals, which could demonstrate an individual’s competency behind the wheel or ability to carry out specific job duties. Personal information such as addresses, insurance information or license plate numbers are not public.
E-mail Incoming and outgoing e-mail correspondence. The public official A public official’s e-mail generated in the course of their duties or with taxpayer paid for office equipment, both hard copy and in electronic format, is a public record and can show if it is being used for the purposes intended. E-mails between elected officials concerning a pressing public issue could also demonstrate a public body’s attempt to circumvent open meetings laws.

Employment contracts

Employment contracts detailing the wages and benefits paid to public officials through tax dollars. The Human Relations department of the office involved. Open contracts assures that tax dollars are being spent wisely, and can provide a red flag if certain employees are getting paid far more than others in similar positions or have excessive benefits packages.
Finance Tracker

Online tool that shows how public money gets distributed.

MD Department of Commerce Finance Tracker Information in the tracker includes: Company name and address, Program (there are about 75 programs in the database), Amount of loan (does not include dollar amount for tax credits); Information on jobs (new jobs, retained jobs, promised trainees, and local hires); Fiscal year loan was awarded; Whetherthe company is required to report back on jobs created.  Information can be exported to Excel or other documents.
Government Contracts / Bid Process Bids for government services show what a company agrees to do and how much it will be reimbursed for the services provided. Most government bodies have either a purchasing or accounting office that is responsible for maintaining these records. Most government bodies have established dollar limits that determine whether purchase of a product or service must be put out to bid. These documents also are available from the purchasing department. (Note: A government body may set a minimum amount before bidding is required. But even if the cost of an item falls below the threshold, records of the expense are public.) These records can help a business that is trying to get a government contract. Open bidding processes also assure that the best bidder is getting the contract and, if any bidder has a concern, he or she has the opportunity to file a complaint. It also assures the public can keep an eye on how the government body is spending money.
Home builder registry Names of contractors licensed in the state, as well as a history of complaints and any actions taken against the builder. The state Attorney General’s office maintains the list under the Maryland Home Builder Registration Act. To research builders before deciding to use them to construct your new house to ensure they do not have multiple complaints already filed against them.
Jail rosters The names of individuals residing in the local jail. At the jail. Having these records open assures people are not being held without charges, beyond the time imposed in their sentence or without the benefit of a speedy trial as required by law.
Land Transfers Names of buyers and sellers of property, type of property and the selling price and taxes and fees paid. The Clerk of Courts Land transfers can show pricing of homes and land in the area. They can also be an early indication of possible development if, for instance, land with certain zoning designations is sold to a corporation or developer.
Landlord/Tenant These records can show whether landlords have a history of violations or problems within a community. Most communities have established livability codes, where they ensure that landlords keep their properties up to minimum standards. Communities that don’t have these codes may rely on the code enforcement officer to maintain records on any problem properties or landlords. Ensuring rental properties are up to code and property owners take care of their units is essential information for anyone in the market for rental housing.
Marriage licenses Legal marriages in a given jurisdiction The Clerk of courts Entering into marriage is a legal contract and, as such, it is open to public scrutiny
Nursing Home Inspection Reports Rates nursing homes on established criteria to ensure they meet minimum standards. Nursing homes are required to post their latest inspection report. In addition, the reports are available at some local libraries, and they are available from the state Office of Health Care Quality. The state also operates a Web site with a searchable database of inspection reports. Determining that elderly loved ones will receive quality care is essential for families considering these facilities. The inspection reports ensure people have complete information on all facilities operated in the state.
Occupational safety Reports detail accidents and violations of established safety guidelines for businesses. The regional Maryland Occupational, Safety and Health office, under the Division of Labor and Industry. Tracking to ensure businesses maintain safe environments is essential to quality workplaces. Numerous violations or accidents can be an indicator of bigger problems within the business.

 Physician records

Background of state’s doctors, education, where and what they practice, summaries of claims against them. The state’s Board of Physicians maintains a Web site with a database searchable by the physician’s name. To ensure that your doctor has not been cited by the Board or been party to multiple malpractice claims or judgments.
Planning reports Details concerning development in a specific community. Your local, county or state planning department. Business, commercial and residential development need to go through their local planning offices for approval. Planning documents, master plans and other documents can show proposed roads or other areas slated for change. The planning office can be a source of information for future development in an area, and is a good research tool for people considering a move into a new area.
Police Logs Police logs chronicle the daily activities of police and include calls they respond to. Police departments are required to maintain these logs and to produce them upon request. Police logs can be helpful when searching for a new home or for finding out about crime in your neighborhood.
Property Assessments The value of a given property. Most counties have a state Department of Assessments and Taxation office where residents can get their latest assessment information. It is also available online at the agency’s Web site. Residents can also request the notes used by the assessor in determining the value of the home and neighboring homes. Checking on home values in the neighborhood or seeing whether your home assessment matches others in the neighborhood can be valuable when shopping for a new home or selling an existing home.
Records Retention and Disposal Schedules A list of records maintained by an agency, along with guidelines concerning how long they need to be maintained by the agency, and what is supposed to happen to them after they are no longer needed. By law, agencies are required to maintain these schedules. They must submit these schedules to the state Records Management Division. These schedules are essential to an agency’s ability to properly maintain its records. They also provide an easy reference for anyone who needs to know if a specific record exists. For instance, a person may want to know about acts of violence in their school. By getting a copy of the records retention and disposal schedule from a local school system or the state, the person would immediately see that records are supposed to be kept on school violence reports.

Restaurant Inspections

The cleanliness and healthiness of eating establishments. The county Health Department. Restaurant inspection reports protect restaurants with good reputations and help highlight for the public restaurants that have problems maintaining minimum health standards.
School Safety Various records show instances of violence in schools, the number of expulsions and suspensions, drug activity, sexual assault, physical attacks. School systems maintain these records, and copies are forwarded to the state Department of Education, where they can also be obtained. These reports can provide vital information for parents considering a move into a specific school district, or to track how their district is doing in addressing dangerous situations in their schools.
Sex Offender Registry People who have been convicted of sexual offenses must register with the state upon their release. They must also register with the police in the jurisdiction they live. The state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services maintains a Web site of sexual offenders. Local police departments also should maintain a list of convicted sex offenders living in the community. Many states enacted laws creating these registries after a series of high-profile cases of youngsters being abducted or sexually abused by offenders who had just been released from jail and moved into a community without anyone knowing their history.
Traffic surveys The amount of traffic flowing through a certain area, by time of day. The State Highway Administration maintains a database online. Residents concerned about increased traffic brought on by new business or residential development, or municipalities attempting to justify the need for additional stop lights, turning lanes or traffic calming devices such as speed bumps may turn to SHA’s traffic information for information on how crowded their roadways are, and whether they are safe.
Voter registration records Who is registered to vote, their party affiliation and their voting district. The local Board of Elections Voter registration lists are often used by candidates for public office to get work out of their campaigns. These lists can also be useful when determining legislative districts for a community to ensure fairness in how they are established and to avoid gerrymandering.
Water Quality Public water systems must meet state and fedeal standards to ensure they are safe. The water treatment plant or entity (such as a school served by a well) should maintain files of water testing. In addition, county Health Department, the state Department of the Environment and the federal Environmental Protection Agency maintain records on water systems. To ensure your community water system is meeting all local, state and federal standards for safety.

911 tapes

A recording of calls coming in to a jurisdiction’s emergency operations center The local 911 communications office. 911 records commonly are used in court cases. Records custodians can deny access to portions of these recordings which tell specific personal information about an individual, such as medical condition, but that information must be redacted and the remaining information released.
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