What is the PIA?
The PIA grants you the right to review available records that are disclosable and to obtain copies of those records. A public record is defined as the original or copy of any documentary material in any form created or received by an agency in connection with the transaction of public business. Included in this definition are written materials, books, photographs, photocopies, films, microfilms, records, tapes, computerized records, maps, drawings and other materials.
However, some public records are confidential under federal or state statutes, under court rules, or under various common law privileges such as attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, and are therefore not releasable under the PIA. In addition, the County has the right to withhold records if it is determined that disclosure of those records would be “contrary to the public interest."
Note, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applies only to agencies of the U.S. government, not to State and local agencies.
Submitting a PIA Request
How do I submit a PIA request to the County?
All PIA requests to Howard County Government must be submitted in writing, either via letter or email, to the Department of County Administration EXCEPT for those requests that SOLELY seek records from the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) or Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS). If you seek records from HCPD and/or HCDFRS, as well as other Howard County Government departments, you'll want to submit your request to PIO.
In your request, it is important that you specifically describe the precise records you seek so that the County can thoroughly research your request. Please be sure to provide all necessary contact information as further discussions may be necessary to clarify your request.
To submit a request to the Department of County Administration, please either email or mail the request to: Department of County Administration, Attn: Patrick Pope, Assistant CAO, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043. Additional contact information for the Department of County Administration can be found online or by calling (410) 313-4305.
I solely seek police records, how do I submit a PIA request to HCPD?
If you ONLY seek records from Howard County Police Department (HCPD), and no other Howard County Government department, you will need to contact HCPD directly. To submit a request for records solely to HCPD, either email [email protected] or mail the request to: Howard County Police Department, Attn: Records Section, 3410 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043. Additional contact information for HCPD can be found online or by calling 410-313-2250.
Please note, if you are simply looking to obtain a copy of an existing police report (crime, accident and/or 911 recording), details on how to do so can be found on HCPD's Online Resources website.
I solely seek fire records, how do I submit a PIA request to HCDFRS?
If you ONLY seek records from the County's Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS), and no other Howard County Government department, you will need to contact HCDFRS directly. To submit a request for records solely to HCDFRS, either email [email protected] or mail: Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Public Information Officer, 2201 Warwick Way, Marriottsville, MD, 21104. Additional contact information for HCDFRS can be found online or by calling 410-313-6000.
How do I submit a request to the Howard County Health Department?
The Howard County Health Department (HCHD) is a State agency despite its name and as such, is the custodian of its own records. For instructions on how to submit a PIA request to the HCHD, visit its website.
How do I submit a request to the Howard County Council?
As the legislative branch of Howard County Government, the Howard County Council is the custodian of its own records. To request records maintained by the County Council, you'll need to submit a PIA request to the Council's Public Information Officer. Contact information for the Council's Public Information Officer, and the County Council, can be found the County Council's website.
Response time and cost.
Upon receipt of your request, a custodian must grant or deny the request not more than 30 days after receiving the request. However, if a custodian believes it will take more than 10 days to respond to the request, the custodian must notify the requestor in writing or by email within that time period of the following: the amount of time it will take to produce the public record, an estimate of fees (if applicable) and the reason for the delay.
Please note that under Section 4-206 of the PIA, a custodian may charge a fee for the search for, preparation of, and reproduction of a public record; this fee prorated for each individual's salary and actual time attributable to the search for and preparation of a public record. In addition, per Howard County Council Resolution No. 68-2022, the County charges a copying fee of $0.25 per page for a black and white paper copy. If electronic copies of the responsive records exist, they are free of charge; however, when an electronic response, or portion thereof, is too large to send electronically, the response, or portion thereof, will be provided either in paper format, or electronically on a CD, DVD or flash drive, as the requester specifies. The cost of a CD, DVD or flash drive is the actual cost of the CD, DVD, or flash drive.
More information on the PIA.
For more information on the PIA, visit Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General website.