Public Information Act
Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Did you ever write to request information under Maryland’s PIA laws? It is a pain in the neck. One gets the run around. However, write under the Freedom of Information Act and the Feds throw tons of stuff at you.
Reporters and Newspapers are familiar with the process and is every level of Government. That is why I don’t understand why Howard County has failed to respond to a PIA request from the Baltimore Examiner.
The failure to respond to PIA places the County at risk of being sued and/or penalized. Mr. Ulman owes an explanation as to why the County has failed to respond (that means they could say buzz off we aren’t giving you the information or they could supply the requested information) within the required 30 days. Don’t tell me it is not his responsibility to explain. At the point the County failed to follow the law in this matter they left the County exposed to legal action. As such this matter deems Mr. Ulman’s attention.
An alert reader sent this information from the Baltimore Examiner
BALTIMORE – What a difference 30 miles can make. In Baltimore City, the police department either refuses to answer questions about overtime or will not without a Maryland Public Information Act request, which gives government 30 days to respond. In Carroll County, the police outline why and how overtime was used — and what specifically it did for taxpayers — upon request.
The deputy earning the highest overtime in Carroll, Conrad Dill, earned $21,084 extra last year chasing motorists who did not stop for school buses. We still don’t know how Baltimore City Detective Albert Marcus, the highest-paid police employee in his department, earned $104,423 in overtime in 2006, bumping his salary to $167,421. Protecting and serving in Baltimore City requires different tactics and more frequent work in life threatening situations than in Carroll, but taxpayers in every jurisdiction deserve transparency.
That’s why The Baltimore Examiner requested — as any resident can — salary and overtime information for public employees in our coverage area: Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Howard County, Harford County, and Anne Arundel County. It’s also why we have published and will continue to make available that information in print and online as it comes.
Aside from Baltimore City and Carroll, Baltimore County and Harford County have promised to make the information available. Howard and Anne Arundel counties have not responded to the request within the 30 days allotted under the Maryland Public Information Act. They must earn the public’s trust. We all are waiting. To residents of those counties, call Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold at 410-222-1821 and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman at 410-313-2013 and tell them to release the information.
Some public employees say that salary and overtime information should be secret. We don’t think so, and the law says the data are open.
Scrutiny makes everyone more efficient and honest. Sunshine only embarrasses employees who cheat taxpayers and officials who let them do it.