The public's right to information about government activities lies at the heart of a democratic government. Maryland's Public Information Act (PIA) grants the people of this State a broad right of access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens. Requests for public records always begin with a government agency (State, county, or municipal). See the General Information and FAQs section of this page for additional guidance.
Several offices and entities have a role in facilitating access to public information: the Public Access Ombudsman, the Public Information Act Compliance Board, and the Office of the Attorney General. See below for descriptions, functions, and links to each of these offices.
Access to Government Records Under the Maryland Public Information Act - A brief overview of the Public Information Act intended for the general public
Public Information Act Manual
To submit a PIA request to a State, county, or municipal agency – see the list of records custodians and submit the request to the contact person. A member of the public should contact the PIA representative to request a public record from the governmental unit.
To find the Records Custodian for a State, county, or municipal agency – Click here for the most recent list of State, county, and municipal PIA representatives. The list is updated periodically.
Each governmental unit that maintains public records must annually submit to the Office of the Attorney General the contact information for a Public Information Act Representative. The information must include the name of the governmental unit, the name of the PIA representative, telephone number, mailing address, and email and internet addresses. Agencies and governmental units should submit updates to their PIA contact information, which appears in Appendix J of the PIA Manual, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Public Access Ombudsman mediates disputes under the Public Information Act that a requester and a records custodian have been unable to resolve themselves. The Ombudsman does not accept PIA requests on behalf of agencies and cannot compel the parties to act in a particular way. The Ombudsman's duties focus solely on attempting to resolve disputes between a requester and a records custodian about a pending request for public information. Please note: Effective July 1, 2022, to file a complaint with the PIA Compliance Board, a requestor or custodian must first attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation with the Ombudsman.
The Office of the Public Access Ombudsman was created by State law in 2015 and operates independently of the Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General appoints the Ombudsman and provides office space and staff support for the Ombudsman. See § 4-1B-01 et seq. of the General Provisions Article of the Maryland Code.
Click here for more information about the Ombudsman and access to the Ombudsman's services.
The PIA Compliance Board is an independent State entity, and its five members are appointed by the Governor. The Board reviews and resolves complaints related to disputes that arise under the Public Information Act. The Board was created by legislation enacted in 2015, and originally the Board had jurisdiction to review only complaints that a custodian had charged an unreasonable fee higher than $350 for public records. However, a law passed in 2021 expanded the Board's jurisdiction. That law, which became effective on July 1, 2022, allows the Board to review and resolve complaints that:
A custodian wrongfully denied inspection of public records;
A custodian charged an unreasonable fee higher than $350 for public records;
A custodian failed to respond to a request for public records; and
A PIA applicant's request is “frivolous, vexatious, or in bad faith."
Click here for information about the PIA Compliance Board, here for the Board's complaint procedures, and here for meeting notices.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) provides legal advice to all State agencies regarding their responsibilities under the Public Information Act. In addition, the OAG provides a Public Information Act Manual that contains the law itself, along with narrative descriptions of the manner in which the law applies to different types of requests. Included in the Manual are references to appellate decisions and sample letters (both for requests and responses). The Manual is available to the public online, and provides meaningful assistance to members of the public and records custodians.
For the table of contents and access to the complete Manual, click here.
To request public records from the Office of the Attorney General, send the request to the PIA representative for the Office:
Janice Jewson, Executive Associate, Opinions & Advice Division 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202 410-576-6327 email@example.com (During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is preferable for requesters to submit their PIA requests by email, if possible.)
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / En español 410-230-1712 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TTY: Dial 7-1-1 or 800-735-2258