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In Baltimore, the City Council constitutes the Legislative Branch of government.

The Council consists of fifteen members. Fourteen are elected by Council district voters, and one at-large member is elected as City Council President by voters throughout the City. Members serve four-year terms (City Charter, Art. III, secs. 1-14).


With the approval of the Board of Estimates, the Comptroller purchases insurance for the City, and represents the City claims against insurance companies on policies held by the City. Funds awarded in settlement are received by the Mayor and City Council for disbursement.

Under the Comptroller are three Departments: Audits, Communication Services, and Real Estate. In overseeing the Department of Real Estate, the Comptroller records all agreements, contracts, deeds, and leases related to City properties, and maintains an inventory of these records. With the Director of Finance, the Comptroller updates and verifies the accuracy of this inventory quarterly.

The Comptroller is elected by the voters to a four-year term, and serves ex officio on the Board of Estimates, and the Board of Finance (City Charter, Art. V; City Code, Art. 5, sec. 1).


Fiscal policy for the City is developed and executed by the Board of Estimates. The Board also supervises all contracts and purchases awarded by the City, sets City employee salaries and wages, and establishes proceedures for payment of bonds to and claims against the City.

Annually, the Board holds hearings on the operating budget proposed by the Finance Director. To the President of the City Council, it then submits an ordinance of estimates, which consists of an operating budget, a capital budget, and a contingent fund appropriation to cover possible emergencies.

The Board of Estimates has five ex officio members: the Mayor; the City Comptroller; the City Council President; the City Solicitor; and the Director of the Department of Public Works (City Charter, Art. VI).


The Board of Ethics hears allegations of violation of the City’s ethics code. The Board investigates and rules on allegations made against elected City officials and employees for conflicts of interest, problems with financial disclosure, or lobbying misconduct. If evidence of certain violations are found while conducting its investigation, the Board must refer those cases to the appropriate prosecting authority.

Reporting annually to the Mayor and City Council, the Board recommends legislation, and develops and provides a training course for those subject to the Code. Annually, the Commission also submits a report to the State Ethics Commission, showing City compliance with State regulations (Code State Government Article, sec. 15-803(b)).

Five members constitute the Board of Ethics. Three are appointed to five-year terms by the Mayor, and two serve ex officio. The Director of Legislative Reference serves as the Executive Director of the Board (City Charter, Art. VII, secs. 105-110; City Code, Art. 8, secs. 1-1 through 9-22).


The Board of Legislative Reference governs the Department of Legislative Reference.

Serving on the Board are a representative of the City Council and six ex officio members: the Mayor; the City Solicitor; the President of The Johns Hopkins University; the Dean of the Carey School of Law, University of Maryland; the Dean of the School of Law, University of Baltimore; and the Director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library (City Charter, Art. VII, sec. 93).

Work of the Department of Legislative Reference is concerned with legislative matters, and records and archives.

Appointed by the Board of Legislative Reference, the Director supervises and directs the Department.

At the request of the Mayor, City Council committees, or heads of City departments, the Director investigates and reports upon the laws of Maryland and other states and cities; and compiles data showing the practical operation and effect of such laws. The Director also investigates and collects information relating to any matter which is the subject of proposed legislation by the General Assembly, or the City Council; and examines and reports on acts, ordinances, and records of any state or city, to the Mayor, City Council committee, or City department heads.

Upon request of any City Council member, the Director prepares or advises in the preparation of any bill, ordinance, or resolution; preserves and collects all information obtained, carefully indexed and arranged, so as to be at all times easily accessible to City officers and open to the inspection of the general public.

The Director keeps all books, documents, archives, records, official plats, papers, and proceedings of the City, except those in current use or whose custody the Board of Estimates shall by resolution otherwise direct or authorize. A complete series of the ordinances, resolutions, and proceedings of the City is collected, arranged and safely kept by the Director. Moreover, other documents pertaining to the City, which the Director deems to have historic value, or which by ordinance or resolution the Board of Estimates directs be kept, are received and kept by the Director. While such books, documents, papers, plats, or archives are retained in the Department, they are available for inspection and reproduction by the public under such reasonable regulations and supervision as the Director may prescribe. In addition, the Director prepares and keeps an index of all books, papers, records, and documents in the custody of the Department; and keeps a current separate index of all rules and regulations of other City departments and agencies (City Charter, Art. VII, sec. 93).

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 Maryland Manual On-Line, 2013

August 8, 2013

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