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Maryland Public Information Act Requests Procedure - 61.04.02

College Policy Number/Title:

Howard Community College (HCC) follows these procedures for public information requests:

SUBMITTING A REQUEST

The HCC website contains a tremendous amount of information and, in some instances, the documents or data being sought under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) may be readily available online. In some cases, this information can be found simply by using the website’s search function.

MPIA requests, other than requests for public safety incident reports or videos, should be submitted in writing and should indicate, as specifically as possible, what documents are being sought. The MPIA request should include the name, address, phone number, and email of the requestor. Written requests under MPIA should be sent to:

Howard Community College
Office of the President/Executive Associate to the President
10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Room MH225
Columbia, MD 21044

Requests may also be emailed to the executive associate to the president or faxed to the president’s office. Requests emailed or faxed over the weekend or on holidays will not be received until the next business day.

Requests for public safety records, including incident reports and videos, should be directed to the department of public safety and include the name, address, phone number, and email of the requestor. Written requests for public safety records should be sent to:

Howard Community College
Department of Public Safety
10901 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD 21044

Additional information related to the release of public safety videos can be found in procedure 70.01.03, Security Cameras.

RESPONDING TO A REQUEST

When the college receives an MPIA request, the request will be sent immediately to the executive associate to the president who will circulate the MPIA request to the appropriate office to begin the collection of public records and will give deadlines for the responses to the president’s office. The executive associate to the president will keep a master list of the MPIA requests received and the dates that responses were provided.

If the college receives an MPIA request for public records for which the college is not the custodian, the MPIA requires the public agency to give the requestor notice within 10 working days that the agency is not the proper custodian of the records and to provide the name of the correct custodian, if known. [Section 4-202(c)]

Ordinarily the college has 30 days to respond to an MPIA request. If the search will take longer than 30 days for any reason, the college should send the requestor written notice that it needs additional time to complete the task and provide a new deadline by which the response will be provided.

During the review of the MPIA request, the college should make certain that the public records do not contain personally identifiable information, trade secrets, or confidential information that is ordinarily protected by confidentiality laws.

Staff involved in the review of public records gathered in responding to MPIA requests should familiarize themselves with Subtitle 3, Denials of Inspection, which provides specific required denials and provisions for discretionary denials in instances where the agency may deny inspection of all or part of a public record if the custodian believes that such inspection would be contrary to the public interest.

In some situations, the college’s final response to the MPIA request may require review by legal counsel if the public records contain confidential or sensitive information or pose a legal question regarding the possible denial of a record. In these matters, the office of the president will serve as the primary contact with legal counsel.

RECOVERING COSTS

Under §4-206 of General Provisions, a government unit is allowed to recover the actual costs incurred to search, prepare and reproduce records for inspection after the first two hours. These costs will generally be incurred in two ways.

  1. Employee Costs for Fulfilling the Request: The law allows a government agency to charge the hourly rate of the employee or employees who are doing the work to fulfill the request, after the first two hours, which are exempted.
  2. Duplication Costs: The law also allows a government agency to recoup the cost of any copies made. HCC may charge 20 cents per page for copies.

If employee time beyond two hours is required to fulfill a request, the requestor will be notified in writing of the estimated cost and asked whether the requestor wishes to proceed. If so, payment must be made in advance or work on the request will cease after two hours and will not resume until payment is received from the requestor. If, during the process of fulfilling a request, it becomes apparent it will take longer than had been estimated, work on the request will stop and the requestor will be informed of any additional costs, in writing. However, if fulfilling the request takes less time than estimated, the difference will be refunded to the requestor.

If a significant amount of copying is involved, the requestor will be notified that payment for duplication costs must be made in advance. In all other cases, the requestor will be notified of the duplication charges and the amount due in the response letter from HCC. Payment in full for copies is expected to be made within 10 days. Checks should be made payable to “Howard Community College” and mailed to:

Howard Community College
Office of the President/ Executive Associate to the President
10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Room MH225
Columbia, MD 21044

TRANSMITTAL OF PUBLIC RECORDS

The response to an MPIA request includes a transmittal letter explaining the types of public records being provided and the actual records.

The college responds as quickly as possible to MPIA requests but does not “expedite” requests for any group. In most cases, responses will be sent via FedEx or USPS mail although, on occasion, the response may be sent by email.

Effective Date: 09/10/21

President's Office Use:  PRES

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