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MDDC releases report on PIA in Maryland

In September 2014 the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association Freedom of Information work group embarked on a project to gather information on the number of Public Information Act requests local governments typically get in a year, how those requests are handled, the number of requests that are denied, charges that are assessed across the state for search or copying costs and the amount of money that local governments spend on legal fees associated with PIA requests.

Among the key findings:

  • There is no consistent charge for paper copies. Costs assessed for records copying ranged from 10 cents a page to 50 cents a page;
  • There is no consistent fee for record searches that go beyond the two hours allowed by law. Costs assessed for records searches ranged from $12.75 an hour to $50 an hour;
  • There is no consistency concerning when fees will be waived. Eleven respondents either charged or said they would charge us for the requested documents. The others either did not charge or waived any associated fees. Charges ranged from $10 for copying fees to $7,560 requested for search and copy fees.

Additionally:

  • More than a quarter failed to respond at all to the PIA request;
  • Nine of the 134 that responded (6.7percent) maintain and sent logs that track requests, when they are received, when responses are sent, costs and reasons for denials;
  • Of the 114 municipal governments responding, 50 (44 percent) said they had received no PIA requests for the period included in the request (Fiscal year 2013);
  • Only nine of those responding (6.7 percent) provided information on legal fees associated with filling PIA requests for the period sought (Fiscal year 2013); one denied access to that information on the grounds that it was “attorney client privilege”;
  • Of 1,484 PIA requests received in fiscal year 2013 that governments provided to us, only 35 (2.5%) were outright denials. A few contained partial denials, but this was a similarly low percentage (less than 1 percent).

Read the full report.

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