Arlington County Board Chairman Walter L. Frankland Jr. was sharply criticized last night for hiring as his full-time assistant a retired school administrator who also has a $280-per-day, 100-day, consulting contract with the county school system.

The criticism against Frankland, elected to the board with Republican endorsement, came from John W. Purdy, the board's senior Democrat-backed member.

In a heated 20-minute exchange, Purdy said he was publicly questioning the appointment of Howard Bovee as Frankland's assistant because "questions have been raised that Bovee spends only three of four hours each day" working in the county board offices.

One of Frankland's first actions after becoming chairman of the five-member board Jan. 1 was to hire Bovee to a 40-hour-per-week, $13,430 per year job as, chairman's assistant, a position that has been vacant since 1976.

Since winning election to the board in 1975, Frankland, a fiscal conservative, has repeatedly charged that the quality of Arlington's schools has declined. Frankland has blamed School Superintendent Larry Cuban for that decline.

Bovee has recently written speeches for Frankland attacking Cuban and the second board, which is currently dominated by Democrats. His appointment was seen as evidence that Frankland plans to continue focusing on alleged deficiencies in the school system.

Because some county officials have privately questioned Bovee's dual employment, Frankland last week asked Commonwealth's Attorney Henry Hudson for an opinion on Bovee's status.

At last night's meeting Frankland, responding to a question by Purdy, admitted that Bovee was not putting in "a normal workday" in the county board office. But he said Bovee works on projects outside the office and is "available on a 24-hour basis to me."

"I don't know any position in county government where the employe isn't in an office (40 hours per week)," Purdy said.

Frankland accused Purdy of "making a political issue out of this."

When Purdy pointed out that previous chairman/assistants, like all county employes, were required to fill out daily time slips, a practice Bovee has not followed, Frankland retorted that he was Bovee's supervisor. "If you want me to do that for him (certify time slips) I will," Frankland said.

"This bothers me because of the smallness you demonstrate," Frankland told a visiby angry Purdy, who recently announced that he would not seek reelection to a third term in November.

"You're overreacting," Purdy replied, "because there's something about this that bothers you."

Frankland said he was bothered by the "obvious political issue involved" and promised to inform the board of Hudson's legal opinion when it is made.