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Questions and Answers on filing an FOI

September 01, 2000

Questions and Answers on filing an FOI



Q. What information is available under Maryland's Public Information Act?


A. All public records, including written material, photographs, films, microfilms, recordings, tapes, computerized records, maps and drawings.

Assume the information you want is a public record. The burden is on the government agency to prove otherwise.

Some examples of documents that are not public information include adoption records, other people's personnel files, hospital records, retirement records and public library circulation records that identify the transaction of a borrower.


Q. Who can apply for information?


A. Anyone - citizens, corporations, associations, public interest groups, private individuals and universities.


Q. Does the request have to be in writing?


A. An agency should not demand written requests for inspection of documents when there is no question the public has a right to inspect them. But if there are doubts about whether the information is public, a written request is important and achieves several important goals. It serves as an official record, should litigation follow. It gives the government official something to take up the chain of command. In many states, it requires the government official to respond within a certain time period.

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Q. How do I find the appropriate agency?


A. This might take several phone calls to state agencies or elected officials, but it will likely speed up your request once it's filed.


Q. What can I do if my request is denied?


A. The state agency responsible for the document must provide a written statement of the reasons for denial within 10 working days. Some agencies have an administrative review process where you can appeal. Or, you can take the matter to court.

Compiled by Laura Ernde
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