MPIA and FOIA

Responding to Requests for Public Information

What is the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) and what is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

As a public institution, University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) is subject to a law called the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA). MPIA is like the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). MPIA allows individuals and organizations to inspect or receive copies of public records maintained by UMB except to the extent that the records are protected from release because they fall within a statutorily recognized exemption to the law. FOIA contains similar rights and exemptions, but Maryland law and federal law are not identical.

The MPIA grants a requester the right to review available records in the custody of UMB that are not otherwise protected by law and to obtain copies of those records. It does not require UMB to answer informational questions or to create a record to satisfy a request.

What should I do if I receive an MPIA request?

Do not respond to the request yourself. If you receive a request for documents, regardless of whether the request specifically cites FOIA or MPIA, you should immediately forward that request to the UMB Public Information Act Representative. If you have questions or need advice, contact the Office of University Counsel (x6-5353). UMB has 10 days to acknowledge a request and a limited amount of time to provide records after a request is received, so acting promptly is important.

Who pays for the costs of responding to a request?

It is UMB policy to recover its costs for the actual time expended for the search for, preparation of, and reproduction of records, including labor and media and mechanical processing costs, to the fullest extent permitted by law. However, UMB may not charge a fee for the first two hours that are needed to search for a public record and prepare it for inspection.

Can a MPIA request be denied?

There are circumstances when requests for public information may be denied because there is information in UMB records that is not lawfully available to the public. This may include, for example, information related to: personnel, clients, patients, and students; ongoing research and patent prosecution; business organizations affiliated with UMB that are not state government entities; and third-party commercial entities that work with UMB. Contact University Counsel (x6-5353) to discuss concerns or questions regarding release of documents.

UMB VI - 5.00(A) UMB POLICY ON INSPECTION OF PUBLIC RECORDS can be found on the UMB policy website. 

NIH podcast:  Understanding FOIA