Three Montgomery County Republican candidates filed suit yesterday to force a taxpayer organization to turn in a 13,000-signature petition that would place on the ballot a tax limitation referendum more severe than the one offered by the County Council.

The taxpayer group, called Fairness in Taxation, decided not to turn in the petitions when the council agreed to place on the November election ballot a compromise property tax limitation. The compromise, which is still subject to final council approval, would limit the increase in property tax revenue to the rate of inflation. The original petition drive would have held the rate to 75 percent of inflation.

Two Republican candidates for at-large seats on the council and the GOP candidate for county executive took the unusual step of filing a lawsuit to force the the group to release the petitions so the 75 percent limitation could go to voters.

Republican council candidate Robin Ficker, who has his own spending limitation on the ballot, said the point of the suit was to "stand up for the voters' right to choose" between the proposals.

"The voters are intelligent in Montgomery County," Ficker said at a news conference. "They are capable of making an informed choice." Ficker was joined at the news conference by county executive candidate Albert Ceccone and George E. Sauer, also an at-large candidate for the council. Council candidate John F. Thomas, who supports the suit, did not attend.

Taxpayer group Chairman Robert Denny called the lawsuit a "frivolous effort to gain attention for people who want a headline."

"Mr. Ficker is a well-known Montgomery County gadfly who already has his own . . . charter amendment on the ballot, so we hardly consider his concern a sincere one," Denny said.