Records sought

November 20, 2003

  • A list of teachers whose certification has been revoked. Having certified teachers in classrooms is a part of the recently enacted federal No Child Left Behind Act. Knowing if teachers who have had their certification revoked are still in classrooms as well as the number of decertified teachers in a given school district is an important ingredient for parents looking to relocate or people looking to move into Maryland.

  • Real estate property appraisal (Three offices visited). Every property owner in Maryland has a stake in how their property is assessed and whether it is being assessed similar to others in their neighborhood. People moving in to an area or selling their home also need to know assessed values. The state maintains a database that is available online. Visitors can also stop by their local property tax assessment office for the information.

  • A list of complaints against real estate appraisers. Property assessments have a high public interest and knowing that an appraiser has a good record is essential to individuals looking for appraisers to assess their property or property they are thinking of purchasing.

  • Travel expense reports. Tracking how government workers are spending tax dollars is an important part of ensuring money is being spent wisely. Throughout the years, stories about government workers using tax dollars for what essentially amount to personal vacations have been well-documented. We entrust our officials with public money, but they must be accountable for how they spend it.

  • Chauffeur services log. As in the case of travel expenses, government use of taxpayer-purchased equipment must be limited to official uses, yet instances where officials use government vehicles on personal trips and abuses of the system have been well-documented. Tracking use of these vehicles ensures they are being used as intended.

  • The latest inspection report of the Bay Bridge. Tens of thousands of vehicles pass over the Bay Bridge every day and it is a matter of extreme public interest whether the bridge is safe. Results of bridge inspections should be readily available to the traveling public.

  • A report of the activities of the state's Emergency Response Team from the Maryland Department of the Environment. State responses to emergencies - such as the 2001 tunnel fire in Baltimore - are of extreme public interest, especially in the current era of terrorist threats. In addition, monitoring the expenditure of state funds to ensure they are being used effectively is essential to good government.

  • A list of complaints against lottery vendors. Lottery sales and the money brought in are of high public interest, especially in times of tight budgets. Vendors who operate faulty machines or who are slow to respond to customer complaints should not be allowed to continue to operate and reviewing the data is essential to determining if the public's needs are being met.

  • Vendor report. The state contracts out for many jobs, including construction projects for buildings and other facilities. Those contracts, as well as any change orders that result in additional project costs, are public records because they deal with the expenditure of public money. Instances of contractors submitting low bids and then coming along later with changes increasing the cost of the project have been well-documented over the years, and have thrown many budgets into the red.

  • Vehicle emissions test report. Vehicles in Maryland have to pass emissions testing and it is in the public interest to know how many vehicles are passing and how many are failing. Extremely high pass or failure rates could indicate a problem with administration of the system.

  • Maryland Occupation, Safety and Health on-site inspection reports. (Three regional offices). Making sure that Maryland employees have a safe working environment is essential to the public interest. In addition, residents around facilities have a right to know if the business is operating within guidelines established by law.

  • Maryland Commission of Indian Affairs correspondence. Tribal recognition is a long and involved process and residents need to be aware of where tribes stand in their efforts to gain recognition. With the possible legalization of slot machines at Maryland racetracks, and the fact that recognized tribes operating on tribal land could open a casino, the issue of tribal recognition is of strong public interest.

  • MVA 3-year driving record (Three regional offices). The MVA failed a 2000 audit performed by the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, and the administrator at the time promised additional training initiatives to ensure better compliance. For the public, knowing the driving record of bus drivers or others is essential to ensuring safety on our roadways.

  • Death certificate. Under law, death certificates are available only to "people of interest," such as relatives in need of settling an estate. Still, the process of getting this record is one that every Maryland family at one time or another will have to do and it is essential that state employees provide prompt, courteous service to residents making the request.

  • Lobbyist disclosure. Lobbyists in Annapolis have made headlines in recent years for questionable actions, and disclosure statements are required under law to ensure high ethical standards. Because of their importance, it is essential that the public have quick and easy access to these reports.

  • Restaurant inspections (Three regional offices). Almost every family in the state occasionally enjoys a meal out. Ensuring that the facilities operated in Maryland comply with minimum standards is essential to public peace of mind.

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