By Amanda Conn
General counsel, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission
Happy new year to all of the members of the State and Local Government Law Section. I hope each of you had a safe and relaxing holiday season. The Section Council hopes to continue to provide you with useful and timely programs that will help you in your practice and the clients you represent.
The Section Council’s Program Committee put together our first fall program, concerning the Maryland Public Information Act (or “PIA”). The Program Committee chose the PIA because most government attorneys have responded to a PIA request at some point in time and had to weave their way through the myriad of mandatory and discretionary denials in the law, 10-day letters, deadlines, denial and redaction letters, etc.
For me, the PIA is part of the “bread and butter” of government practice that we all need to be familiar with even if you don’t deal with PIA requests on a daily basis. The program was timely because the PIA has been evolving through the years with the creation of an independent Public Access Ombudsman and PIA Compliance Board that was modeled after the Open Meetings Compliance Board.
The roles of the Ombudsman and the PIA Compliance Board were expanded by the Maryland General Assembly in the session of 2021 and those new changes are going into effect on July 1, 2022. Part of the purpose of the PIA “lunch and learn” was to discuss the changes that will be here soon so that when July rolls around you will be ready.
We were lucky to have Ombudsman Lisa Kershner and Patrick Hughes, the chief counsel of opinions and advice for the Attorney General’s Office, speak on some of the new police-related provisions in the PIA and how the Ombudsman will operate in conjunction with the expanded jurisdiction of the Compliance Board. Thanks to Lisa and Patrick for their presentation, and, additionally, to Tim Mitchell from the Anne Arundel County Office of Law for moderating the lunch and learn, including the many great questions at the end of the program.