The J.C. Penney Co. annual meeting came off smoothly here yesterday. Company officials had been concerned that questions about alleged bribes and kickbacks might be raised.

In the proxy distributed for the annual meeting, the company had disclosed internal and grand jury investigations involved alleged bribes paid to employes by a contractor who was renovating the New York headquarters. Two of the employes were convicted and a third pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion in connection with the payments.

The internal investigation concluded that no other employes of the company and no officer or director had been involved in the bribery scheme. The proxy also disclosed that J.C. Penney had received a $2.5 million settlement from the contractor involved.

The proxy statement also said that Kenneth Axelson, senior vice president, had paid the company $5,615 for work performed on his apartment by the contractor. But the audit committee said it found no violations of law or of company policy.

The proxy also referred to a suit brought by a stockholder alleging that officers and directors had "condoned various acts of corporate waste." Among the acts specified in the suit was payment of a salary to Axelson from September 1975 to Setpember 1976 while he served as deputy mayor for finance of New York City.

Penny reported its best first-quarter earnings ever at the meeting.

Penny Chairman Donald Seibert said net income increased 14.3 percent $34 million from $30 million last year.

Net income per share amounted to 52 cents compared with 46 cents a year ago, when there were about 1.4 million fewer shares outstanding.

The department store and catalog chain's sales for the period rose nearly 17 percent to a record $2.2 billion. Excluding sales from discontinued operations, the 1978 first quarter sales gain amounted to more than 20 percent when compared to the same period in 1977.

The payments and the lawsuit raised by Evelyn Davis, a Penny stockholder and corporate meeting gadfly. Davis asked Seibert to disclose the amount of legal fees advanced to officers and directors in connection with the lawsuit. Seibert refused to give out the figure.

According to the proxy, Axelson has received $18,893 in legal fee advances.

Shareholders re-elected the 17 incumbent directors and approved a plan to increase the number of shares of common stock.

In Chicago, Sears Roebuck & Co. blamed higher pension and profit sharing costs for the company's slightly lower first-quarter profits.

Chairman Edward Telling told shareholders at the annual meeting that earnings for the period are expected to decline to $151 million (47 cents a share) from $154 million (48 cents) for the same period a year ago. The first quarter ended April 30, but final figures are not yet available, a company spokesman said.

Sales for the quarter rose 12.9 percent to $4.07 billion from $3.61 billion.