Vii. [§ 15.7] Inspection of Public Records

JurisdictionMaryland

VII. [§ 15.7] INSPECTION OF PUBLIC RECORDS

John Smith is a subcontractor on a construction project at State University. The project had initially been budgeted at $25 million and was scheduled to be completed on March 15, 2020. Nevertheless, it was running more than $2 million over the effective budget amount and was a full year behind schedule.

Smith became concerned that there was inadequate funding for the project. He requested a variety of documents pertaining to the project from George Harris, the records custodian. After a review of the requested documents by the Attorney General's Office, State University produced the documents in a redacted form, asserting that the dollar amounts for the estimated cost to complete the project, the final cost forecast, the estimated budget variance, and the forecasted surplus or shortfall were subject to the executive privilege and contained confidential, commercial information.

Smith filed suit to enjoin the University and Harris from withholding the requested information, to permit Smith to inspect the reports, and for ancillary relief.

COMPLAINT


Inspection of Public Records


John Smith (hereinafter "Smith"), Plaintiff, by his attorneys, Sharbat Abdul and Abdul & Abdul, P.A., sues State University, Defendant, and states:
1. Plaintiff Smith is a resident of Baltimore County, Maryland.
2. Defendant State University is a unit or instrumentality of the Maryland State Government.
3. Plaintiff is a subcontractor on a construction project at State University. On March 1, 2018, Smith entered into a subcontract to perform work and provide materials on a project at the University (the "Project").
4. The Project had initially been budgeted at a cost of $25 million and was scheduled to be completed by March 15, 2020; however, the Project was running over budget and not on schedule.
5. Smith became concerned that there was inadequate funding to pay for his subcontract work on the Project. Accordingly, Smith made a request to George Harris, State University's custodian of records for the Project, requesting documents pertinent to the Project, including documents relating to the schedule and the budget.
6. State University produced some, but not all, of the documents requested by Smith. In addition, State University produced some documents in redacted form, the documents having been redacted as a result of a preliminary review conducted by the Attorney General's office.
7. In particular, State University failed to produce documents relating to (a) the estimated cost to complete the Project, (b) the final cost forecast, (c) the estimated budget variance, and (d) the forecasted surplus or shortfall. In its written response to Smith's document request, State University stated that the above-described documents were being withheld on the basis of executive privilege and because they contained confidential, commercial information.
8. The documents sought by Smith but withheld by State University constitute public records within the meaning of the Maryland Public Information Act, Md. Code Ann., General Provisions §§ 4-101-4-601 (the "Act").
9. There is no statutory exemption under the Act that applies to the documents withheld from Smith by State University.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands:
A. That this Court enjoin State University from withholding documents relating to the Project as requested by Smith, including but not limited to documents indicating (a) the estimated cost to complete the Project, (b) the final cost forecast, (c) the estimated budget variance, and (d) the forecasted surplus or shortfall;
B. That this Court enter an order requiring State University to produce, and allow Smith to inspect and copy, documents relating to the Project as requested by Smith, including but not limited to documents indicating (a) the estimated cost to complete the Project, (b) the final cost forecast, (c) the estimated budget variance, and (d) the forecasted surplus or shortfall; and
C. Such other and further relief as this Court may deem appropriate.

__________
Sharbat Abdul
AIS No. 0123456789
Abdul & Abdul, P.A.
One Calvert Plaza
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Phone: (410) 555-1234
Fax: (410) 555-1235
Email: SAbdul@AbdulLaw.com

Attorneys for Plaintiff

COMMENT

Failure to permit inspection of public records is governed by the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA). Md. Code Ann., General Provisions §§ 4-101-4-601 (2019 & Supp. 2021) (hereinafter Gen. Prov. § ___). "The MPIA provides 'access to public records while protecting legitimate government interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens.'" Admin. Off. of the Cts. v. Abell Found., 252 Md. App. 261, 264...

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