Appointed Officials in Maryland

In Maryland, the principal appointed officials in municipal government are the: city or town manager or administrator; the clerk, treasurer, or clerk-treasurer; and the attorney. Other top appointees include the heads of various departments. Depending on the charter provisions, department heads may be career employees, and thus protected employees, or they may be appointees of the mayor, of the mayor and council, or of the municipality’s chief administrator, in which case the department heads serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority.

Manager or Administrator

Two principal differences exist in theory between a municipal manager and municipal administrator. Depending on the ordinance establishing the administrator position, the administrator will ordinarily have less authority and responsibility than a manager in a council-manager city. Second, the city manager position is created by the charter, while the administrator position is created by ordinance. The former position is accorded more formal authority and stability by virtue of its charter status. In practice, however, there are some exceptions to this general rule. Several administrators in Maryland receive their authority from the charter. In addition, some strong administrators have authority equal to the authority granted managers in neighboring jurisdictions.

Clerk, Treasurer, or Clerk-Treasurer

The functions of the clerk involve attending council meetings, recording and compiling meeting minutes, and acting as the custodian of all municipal records. Depending on the charter, the clerk may have other duties as well, such as personnel and financial administration. Additionally, the treasurer may be the community’s chief financial officer who is responsible for collecting and managing all funds, accounting and financial reporting, and budget preparation. In larger municipalities with more complex budgets, this position is often filled by a professionally trained financial director. The duties of both the clerk and treasurer may be greater or lesser, depending on the charter.

It is not uncommon in small communities to find the positions of clerk and treasurer combined. Nor is it uncommon in these places to find the clerk or clerk-treasurer position combined with that of a city or town administrator. The clerk, treasurer, and clerk-treasurer positions are visible and important in small municipalities, especially when they are formally or informally granted general administrative responsibilities. This is particularly true when the elected officials are essentially part-time employees, meet infrequently, and have little time or expertise to devote to managing the day-to-day affairs of the municipality.

Municipal Attorney

In all but the largest governments, the municipal attorney - the chief legal adviser of the city or town - serves in a part-time capacity. A few larger cities may have an in-house legal staff with a full-time city attorney and perhaps several full-time assistants or deputies. Smaller municipalities simply have no need for and probably cannot afford full-time legal advisers.

The municipal attorney should prepare or at least review for form and legality all ordinances, resolutions, contracts, and other legal documents. The attorney should also review and advise the municipality about state legislation and court decisions and represent the city or town in court actions. However, the extent to which the municipality uses the attorney varies from place-to-place.