Court rules alarm company can access county permit list

SSN Staff  - 
Sunday, February 1, 2004

BALTIMORE - In December, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a county ordinance alone may not be the basis for an exemption to the general public disclosure obligations of the Maryland Public Information Act.

The decision continues the pursuit by Police Patrol Security Systems of Alexandria, Va., which has been trying to get Prince George’s County to turn over its list of alarm system subscribers for two years. The company wants to use the list for marketing purposes.

Police Patrol sued the county under the Maryland Public Information Act after it denied the company’s request for its alarm-subscriber list. A circuit court ruled in favor of Prince George’s County, spurring Police Patrol’s appeal.

Police Patrol had already requested and obtained similar information from Montgomery County, Md., as well as Fairfax and Arlington Counties in Virginia.

In the ruling, Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. wrote: “No public record may be considered confidential or privileged unless a basis for that is found in one of those enumerated sources of law … Local ordinances are not among those sources.”

Harrell noted that those sources that may create exemption include the state and federal constitutions and the Maryland Declaration of Rights.

The case must now go back to the county, Harrell wrote, because the court could not determine “what the county would have done had it known its initial and, until appeal, sole justification was legally insufficient.”

Neither Gerald Baker nor Dean Knowles, who represented Police Patrol’s in its appeal, could be reached for comment before press time.

Knowles told The (Baltimore) Daily Record that Police Patrol would follow up with its original request and then see whether the county honors the request or changes its reason for denying it. He did not rule out another trip to circuit court if the request proves unsuccessful a second time around.