How audit was done

August 30, 2000

FoIA: Your Right to KnowHow audit was done

What is AccessMaryland and how was it done?

Twenty Maryland newspapers participated in the open records audit of the state's 23 counties and Baltimore City organized by the Maryland-Delaware-District of

Columbia Press Association's Freedom of Information subcommittee.

Auditors were given instruction sheets for each record sought and at regional meetings prior to the audit were briefed on procedures.

Auditors were told to not misrepresent themselves, but to be evasive if asked who they were or why they wanted the public records. Under Maryland law, all citizens


can obtain these records without identifying who they are or why they want the record.

Despite the coaching, auditors on two occasions told the records custodian that they were not working for a newspaper.

Records sought included: The driving record of the state senator in the area served by the newspaper; an arrest log from the county police or sheriff's department; anursing home inspection report from the county's nursing home ombudsman; the latest expense report submitted by the county sheriff to the county financedepartment; the school superintendent's contract and the latest school violence report from the county's school system.

All of the records sought are public according to Maryland's Public Information Act.

Participants conducted the open records audit on June 15. Because Maryland's Public Information Act allows officials up to 30 days to respond to a public record request, the results were not tabulated until after the 30-day deadline.

Results where the auditor did not follow up or where questions arose about the validity of the response were removed from the final numbers in order to provide a more accurate representation of compliance.

What we asked

Auditors were directed to record whether the record custodian granted the request immediately, whether a written request was required, or whether the request was denied.

In addition, auditors were asked to record if they were: Referred to a supervisor; charged for copies and, if so, how much; asked to identify themselves and, if so, if it was required to get the record; asked why they wanted the record and, if so, if giving a reason was required to get the record; asked whom they worked for and, if so, if telling was required to get the record; required to quote state law to the record custodian in order to get the record.

For more information, or to view the database or results, go on line to

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