This month's Clarification and Amplification Award in Public Relations goes to Mary Nimmo, Commerce Department public affairs director. Faced with press reports of Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige's redecorating expenditures and Hill attempts to slash his budget, Nimmo has had to defend her boss on a couple of fronts.

Last month Andrew Alexander, Washington correspondent for the Dayton Journal-Herald, called Nimmo to ask about a chartered jet flight Baldrige took earlier this year that cost the taxpayers $11,243. Baldrige was to deliver a speech before the National Association of Business Economists in Tucson, and on the February day Baldrige wanted to travel, there were 40 scheduled flights between Washington and Tucson. In addition, Ronald Regan a few weeks earlier had ordered his cabinet to cut travel costs.

Nimmo told the reporter that Baldrige had to testify on Capitol Hill on the afternoon he wanted to leave, so he couldn't schedule a firm flight.

But Nimmo snares the Clarification and Amplification Award for her ability to look on the bright side of things. She said the secretary's staff considered requesting an Air Force jet but "the cost to the taxpayer would have been twice what the charter was."

Discussing the incident recently, Nimmo said, "I'm at a bit of a disadvantage because this was before I came on board." She added that the Commerce Department was in a rush earlier this year to hire senior staff. This urgency to fill positions made it imperative that Baldrige get to the Tucson convention, where he intended to interview some likely candidates for staff jobs. Thus, the chartered Lear get and, for tireless Baldrige, thanks from a grateful nation.