The Public Information Act: A watchdog in need of teeth
Last week The Herald-Mail reported on a statewide project to assess how well Maryland's Public Information Act is working. Here's a hint: If your car didn't work any better than this law, you'd haul it to the junkyard. The General Assembly needs to consider some major changes in the 2001 session.
Think we're exaggerating? Jim Lee, editor of the Carroll County Times, said that a June check of public-record access by 20 Maryland newspapers revealed that across the state "public officials routinely deny access to even the most basic records."
The records sought included police department arrest logs, elected officials' driving records, school violence reports and nursing home inspection reports. In many cases, instead of turning over the records, public officials quizzed reporters on why information was being sought. In half the cases, they provided no documents to those seeking the information.