Proposed Changes To Md. Public Information Generate Discussion Among Frederick County Elected Officials

It’s part of the county’s 2021 Legislative Package                                                                                                


Frederick, Md (KM) There was a lot of discussion Wednesday among Frederick County elected officials over a bill  to make some changes to the Maryland Public Information Act. The measure, which is part of the County’s 2021 Legislative Package, would prohibit the county from disclosing the exact salaries of employees upon request. Instead, they would provided with  a salary range.

The bill was submitted by County Executive Jan Gardner, who said it would only apply to merit employees, such as those work on the highway crew, at the landfill or as an accountant; not  ones who are hired at-will by the County Executive or County Council. Residents could still get information on exact salaries for division directors.

Gardner says when the  Maryland Public  Information Act was approved,   data-mining companies which can easily obtain this information and sell it to another party did not exist.  She syas this legislation would prevent  data mining.  .

But Delegate Karen Lewis Young raised a concern. “I’m not certain that having a salary range is going to eliminate that, unless the salary ranges are really, really wide, “she said. “There’s still enough information to do data mining.”

Chef Administrative Officer Rick Harcum said the county  is required under the Public  Information Act to provide exact salary information up request, and  that could lead to an employee being the victim of identity theft. “Very often, when individuals find their personal information has been hacked, they don’t know why. They don’t how. But it takes years, maybe even decades, to recover from that kind of devastating release of information and destruction to personal credit reporting information,” he says.

But Delegation Chair Jesse Pippy said anyone who works for a government agency gives up some privacy rights. “I think that anyone who signs up to work in public  office does sacrifice some privacy to be in that position,” he siad.

He further went on to say that legislators must provide salary and other income information. “Not only has our annual salary posted for the world to see, we are required  to fill out financial disclosures each year showing all the money we make, money that our spouses make. And that information is available to anybody in this state who wants  to see it,” he said.

County Executive Gardner said working for the county as a merit employee is not the same as working as a legislator. “Our division directors have to do financial disclosures. But the average guy working on highway crews, or at the landfill or in an administrative position, don’t have to do a financial disclosure at least not as this point,” she said.

The Legislative Delegation will hold a hearing on this package on Saturday, December 5th. The 2021 General Assembly will convene on Wednesday, January 13th.



By Kevin McManus