The District of Columbia paid $15,000 to Mayor Marion Barry's unsalaried protocol chief, Guy Draper, to prepare a report on the creation of a permanent protocol office, city officials said yesterday.

Two contracts authorizing the payment were signed last September and November by Dwight S. Cropp, executive secretary of the D.C. government. Cropp has said in the past -- and he continued to assert yesterday -- that Draper was receiving no pay for his protocol job.

In that post, Draper advises the mayor on protocol and acts as a liaison with the diplomatic community and visiting foreign dignitaries. Draper, 37, is a public relations man and former agent for professional athletes.

Draper and Cropp said in separate interviews that they agreed last fall Draper should be paid for several months of research he had done voluntarily on the feasibility of establishing a protocol office.

Draper said yesterday that he had submitted a draft of the report to Cropp in November and that it is being revised before submission to the mayor.

When Barry and his wife Effi returned from a three-week tour of Africa last July, the mayor named Draper to the newly created post of acting chief of protocol. The mayor's press office said at the time that Draper would not be paid.

Earlier this month, on Cropp's recommendation, Barry removed the word "acting" from Draper's title. An announcement by deputy press secretary Kwome Holmon said that Draper would have to seek outside funding for the office, since the District did not have any budgeted money to pay his salary.

Asked whether the contract for Draper to prepare the report was an indirect way of compensating him for doing the unpaid job, Cropp denied it vehemently.

"He was not paid for operational duties," Cropp said. "He was paid for research."

On this basis, Cropp said he told inquiring reporters on several occasions that Draper was not being paid for the protocol job.

"I make a point of answering specific questions that are put to me," Cropp said yesterday after the mayor's press office distributed a release telling of the Draper contracts. "Maybe that was a judgment matter and . . . I may have constructed the questions too narrowly. . . .

"In retrospect, it probably was a matter of just poor judgment on my part" not to disclose the granting of the contracts, Cropp said.

Cropp, whose District Building office is across the hallway from the mayor's, said the money to pay Draper came from a budget fund earmarked for printing bilingual publications. That fund will be replenished, he said, by money coming from a federal grant.

The first Draper contract was for $2,500, covering work during the 1979 fiscal year. The second was for $12,500 covering completion of the work in fiscal 1980, Cropp said. He said the total was based on an estimate of Draper's time spent on the project.

Draper said he began his research within days after Barry was inaugurated mayor in January 1979.

The contract signed by Cropp on Sept. 25 provides for Draper to "develop a report on the feasibility of the office of the mayor establishing an office of protocol and international affairs . . . (and) make recommendations as to the structure and personnel of the office."

It also said Draper "shall from time to time perform those duties which might be required on an ad interim basis to demonstrate the need for an office of protocol."

Cropp and Draper said that clause did not mean Draper would be paid for doing protocol duties.

"You have to understand, I was playing a dual role," Draper said. As for the unpaid protocol job, he said, "I accepted those terms and conditions -- I went in with my eyes open."