A federal judge ruled yesterday that the District's Department of Human Resources had "violated, manipulated or ignored" government regulations in passing over a qualified white employe and promoting black employes instead.

U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene ordered the city's Human Resources Department to promote the employe, Lewis Sawyer, a 35-year-old accountant in the department's office of controller, to award him back pay retroactive to April 1975 and to pay reasonable legal fees.

According to Greene's opinion, Sawyer's superiors consistently passed him over to promote persons who were either unqualified or less qualified for positions for which Sawyer had applied.

In April 1975, Sawyer, a GS-11, applied for a GS-12 position as a systems accountant.He achieved a rating score of 86, which placed him among the "best qualified" candidates -- along with three other whites and one black.

According to Greene, Sawyer's superior, Roy L. Peters, deputy controller of the department, promoted no one at that time. Peters later appointed a black man to the position on a temporary basis, although the person appointed was not among the eligible candidates.

Peters later improperly, according to Greene, appointed a three-member panel -- consisting of two subordinates and one other person -- to recommend a permanent appointee. The panel recommended the person Peters had given the position to on a temporary basis.

In December 1976 in "an almost exact replay," Greene said, Peters ignored the application of Sawyers and others for an opening and gave a black applicant from New York the job.

The same panel again recommended that the temporary employe be given the job permanently, and he was.

In July 1976 Peters, according to Greene, ignored department regulations by interviewing one other applicant for a position for which Sawyer had applied, but did not interview Sawyer. The other employe, who was black, was given the job.

In another instance, nine names -- rather then the customary top five -- were presented for promotion. Sawyer, with a score of 89, was among the top five and in the "best qualified" group. The position was given to a black applicant who was seventh, with a score of 85.

The D.C. Office of Human Rights investigated "and concluded that [the department was] guilty of discrimination," Greene said.

Greene rejected as "wholly pretextural" the department's claim that Sawyer was passed over for promotion because of a poor leave record resulting from health problems.

Sawyer, Greene ruled, "was passed over by his black superiors for promotions for which he was clearly qualified. Some of these promoted black employes were objectively less well qualified than [Sawyer], others were determined to have the requisite qualifications only as a result of a misapplication of the pertinent regulations and still others were selected on the basis of frankly subjective criteria."