When Montgomery County Councilman Norman Christeller announced last week that he planned to resign his Council post to take an unspecified "high government post," there was apparently little doubt in his mind that he would be offered the recreated job of inspector general in the Agriculture Department.

He knew that the appointment might be made on a political basis - in which case the men who hired him would not have to account to the people who monitor Civil Service regulations - or it might be considered a merit job - in which case Civil Service competitive hiring would be mandatory.

It was only after his announcement that he found out that the post would be considered a merit position, and he therefore would be one of a number of applicants considered.

An Agriculture Department spokesman said Monday that the representatives of the department discussing the job with Christeller urged him to make no announcement of his plans, because of the possible requirements of Civil Service regulations.

"All the people (involved) agreed on the phone with him that it was premature for him to announce that he would resign," spokesman Tom Sand said Monday. "But he apparently didn't understand it that way."

The job of the new inspector general, according to Sand, will be "basically an auditing function outside the normal channels an investigation function to determine whether there are problems or crimes in the department."

Primarily because of the sensitive nature of the job, Sand said, it was put in a Civil Service classification to minimize the possibility of political considerations governing the inspector general's actions.

Christeller said in a statement issued Monday that, "I made this announcement out of a sense of obligation to may collegues on the County Council and to the people of Montgomery County . . . I felt that the Council members should know that I might not be on the Council in early May when the budget decisions are made."

In his Monday statement Christeller, a former County Council president, added: "I understand that my application for this position must go through the normal review processes before a final decision can be made.

"I would not want it otherwise, but I hope that my decision to give advance notice to my colleagues that I might be leaving will not cloud the issue."

Agriculture Department spokesman Sand said Monday that discussions with Christeller were initiated about a month ago.

"We wanted him to help with the job," Sand said. "But there was no decision at the time whether it would be a career (Civil Service) or political appointment. Since we talked to him, the decision was made it would be a career post."

Sand estimated it would take three weeks to make a final selection on the new inspector general, allowing time for posting of the opening, accepting applications and giving and grading the competitive exams.

According to Sand, the inspector general's office was abolished eight years ago but the new Secretary of Agriculture, Robert Bergland, thinks that "the position is necessary."

Even if Christeller did not get the job after the Civil Service competition, Sand said, "We'd be very interested in him as a consultant."