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Herald-Mail checks four offices

November 20, 2003

The Herald-Mail visited four state government agencies on Aug. 21 as part of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association's Freedom of Information test and requested the following public information:

  • On-site inspection reports from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health at 14R N. Potomac St. in Hagerstown.

    The door to the office was locked at about 11 a.m. A woman who unlocked the door told reporter Tara Reilly that she couldn't give out the information. She told Reilly to contact the department's public information officer. His answering machine message said he was not available for two weeks. A MOSH employee filling in for the public information officer did not return Reilly's call.

  • Restaurant inspections from the environmental health division of the Washington County Health Department, which is a local branch of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The environmental health office is on Pennsylvania Avenue.

    A copy of the June 2003 inspections was provided to Editorial Assistant Sharon Haines 19 days after she asked for it.

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  • A current property tax assessment for Mayor William M. Breichner's house, as well as the assessor's notes for that property and the history of assessments there. The Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation office is at 3 Public Square.

    Reporter Tara Reilly instantly received a copy of the current assessment, but was told the assessor's notes and history of assessments were not public information.

  • A 2002 vehicle emissions test report from the Maryland Department of the Environment in Baltimore.

    Reporter Andrew Schotz was stopped twice at the gate of the building that houses the MDE office by security guards who said he needed an appointment to get in. Schotz called MDE from a pay phone; MDE employees said they were shocked and immediately instructed the security force to let him in. Schotz received the report in the mail five days after the visit.

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