The State's Attorney General's Office returned its opinion to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners concluding that email addresses should not be unilaterally redacted from Public Information Act (PIA) requests.
In a December 2011 board of Carroll County commissioners meeting, the board unanimously voted to redact email addresses from PIA requests, citing security concerns.
During the 2011 meeting, Commissioner Richard Rothschild said the deputy legal counsel for Gov. Martin O'Malley did not believe that releasing email addresses was in the public interest because it would have "a chilling effect on communications."
Rothschild added that emails are often tied to individual security information and should be kept private. As a result, Rothschild said Carroll County government should mirror the policy already being implemented by Gov. O'Malley in redacting email addresses.
Commissioner Doug Howard said the board would also seek the advice of the attorney general.
The attorney general recently returned its 16-page opinion, advising that there are some scenarios where it is appropriate for email addresses to be redacted, including those dealing with senior citizens and students, but that the PIA does not permit the unilateral withholding of email addresses.
Commissioner Doug Howard said that he was "both amazed by how long it took to get the opinion and how convoluted it is."
Howard said he felt like the board asked a "yes" or "no" question and failed to get a simple response.
"It seems to me like the attorney general went to great lengths to say that the addresses probably should be included, but then gave reasons why it might not be appropriate, thus giving cover to the position taken by the governor," Howard said.
The board of commissioners may revisit the issue after the county attorney has had time to review the opinion, Howard said.
"We took the same position that Governor O'Malley has taken," Howard said. "I strongly believe the position we have taken is the correct one."
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