While the legislative and executive branches of County government are considered separate today, for most of Montgomery County's history both branches were administered by one body: the Board of County Commissioners.

Legislative Functions. From Montgomery County's creation in 1776 until the establishment of "the Commissioners for Montgomery County" in 1839, the General Assembly enacted laws for the County (Chapter 128, Acts of 1838). Meeting annually for a week in April, the Commissioners were supported by a clerk who was responsible for administrative matters in the interim. After 1839, the Commissioners had the authority to act in a legislative capacity only with express prior consent from the General Assembly.

Initially, "the Commissioners for Montgomery County" were composed of five members appointed by the Senate. Upon a vacancy in their number, the Governor named the replacement.

In November 1948, the County Council gained full authority in legislative matters. At that time, the Montgomery County Charter established the County Council, replacing the Board of Commissioners (County Charter, Art. 1, secs. 101-118). Indeed, Montgomery was the first Maryland county to choose charter government. Nonetheless, it was not until January 1949 that a county council was elected. The County Council first met in legislative session in May 1949.

The Charter defines the Council's authority with regard to legislation, land use, and the County budget. With the ratification of the Charter, the General Assembly transferred all local legislative powers to the County Council.

Elected by the voters to four-year terms, the County Council formerly consisted of nine members. Beginning with the November 8, 2022 election, voters now elect an eleven-member Council. The Council President and Vice-President are chosen annually by the Council (County Code, secs. 101-118).

Executive Functions. The earliest executive functions in Montgomery County focused on the levying and collection of taxes.

Functions of the Board of County Commissioners first were assigned to the County Justices of the Peace in 1776. Certain justices then were authorized to perform legislative and executive functions. These justices were ordered to assess County charges and levy taxes, as they did before the Revolution. In 1777, however, the justices were relieved of such duties for the Commissioners of the Tax were authorized to collect and assess those taxes (Chapter 21, Acts of 1777).

From 1777 to 1779, meetings of the Justices of the Peace were held in Rockville at the tavern of Leonard Davis. From 1779 to 1783, all proceedings took place in a house that was restructured to resemble a courtroom.

The Court Reform Law of 1790 required that all nonjudicial powers transfer from the County Court to the Levy Court (Chapter 62, Acts of 1790). The statute required the Levy Court to adjust ordinary County expenses; appoint tax collectors, constables, road overseers, and commissioners; and contract for builders to repair buildings and bridges. All Levy Court proceedings took place in Rockville at the County’s first Courthouse, which was built in 1784.

In 1839 the Levy Court and Commissioners of Tax were abolished and their duties were assigned to "the Commissioners for Montgomery County" (Chapter 128, Acts of 1838). Thereafter, the Constitution of 1851 abolished Levy Courts statewide, and transferred their functions to county boards of commissioners (Const. 1851, Article VII, sec. 8).

In November 1948, the Montgomery County Charter transferred administrative functions of the Board of County Commissioners to a county manager who was first appointed by the County Council in January 1949. Not until 1970 would the County Executive be authorized to exercise executive functions.

Under the County Council seven standing committees review proposed legislation. They are concerned with: Economic Development; Education and Culture; Government Operations and Fiscal Policy; Health and Human Services; Planning, Housing and Parks; Public Safety; and Transportation and Environment.

The Board of Appeals exercises all functions of a board of zoning appeals. The Board must hear and decide each application for a special exception, unless the County Zoning Ordinance directs otherwise (County Code, sec. 2-112).

Appointed by the County Council, the Board of Appeals consists of five members. The County Council names the chair (County Code, sec. 2-108).

The Charter Review Commission studies the County charter, and makes recommendations to the County Council on proposed Charter amendments (County Charter, sec. 509).

Appointed by the County Council every four years, eleven members constitute the Commission. The chair is named by the County Council, and the vice-chair is chosen by the County Executive.

The Office of Inspector General was formed in 1997.

In Montgomery County, the Office seeks to enhance the productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency of County government agencies, and identify fraud, waste, and abuse.

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